Mail carriers in Newton will be delivering more than the standard letters and packages around town next week. The local post office is gearing up for participation in the annual "Stamp Out Hunger" Food Drive campaign.

Postcard reminders and special bags for donations will go out along 10 city routes through the week, according to Newton Postmaster Robin Gay, with the carriers set to pick bags bag back up on May 11 — with the items collected then being distributed to local food banks.

Over the last several years, the items Newton mail carriers have collected for the campaign — a joint effort of the Kansas Food Bank and the National Association of Letter Carriers — have gone solely to the Salvation Army food bank, but this year will be a little different. This year, Gay noted, Newton's contributions to the food drive will be equally distributed among the Salvation Army, Agape Resource Center and Our Lady of Guadalupe Church — all partners of the Kansas Food Bank.

Letter carriers in Newton deliver special blue bags, courtesy of Hampel Oil, to mailboxes across the community next week for the food drive.

This is the largest one-day food drive held across the United States to assist local food banks and their pantry partners. Locally, Gay said Newton's contributions in the past have ranged from anywhere between 3,000 and 7,000 pounds of food items. With carriers having to do their normal work and collect donated items all at the same time, it can make for one physically-demanding day -- especially for the walking carriers. But Gay noted it is quite the sight to behold when all those items start making their way back to the post office.

"It's a really tough day for the letter carriers. They work super hard this day just because of the increased amount of physical work it is," Gay said. "The guys on mounted routes where they drive all day long, they have to come back to the post office at least once, sometimes twice, because the whole back end of their truck is full of food; they get so much. It's pretty neat just to see in one day how much 10 guys can collect. It's pretty amazing."

"At Hampel Oil, we are dedicated to giving back to the communities we serve," said Joshua Hampel, Marketing and Sales Specialist. "Partnering with the Kansas Food Bank and the Letter Carriers Food Drive allows us to ensure missing meals get to the households that struggle with the most basic necessity, food. Helping provide the collection bags is a small part of the big picture; however, we know that this bag is an important piece of this event and we are happy to help in any way we can."

Because they engage with the community every day, letter carriers see the struggles in the communities they serve and believe that it is important to do what they can to help.

"Not only do they get to know people on their routes who have a need, but then they also get to see the giving spirit of other people on their routes who want to help the community. It's kind of a win-win for them," Gay said. "They get to realize people's generosity when they're picking food up and then they also get to see how it serves the community of people they're also serving on a daily basis."

Residents are encouraged to fill the bags with items like canned fruits and vegetables, peanut butter, canned beans, tuna or other canned meats and meal-in-one type items, such as soup, stew or chili.

The timing of this food drive is important, with food banks and pantries running low on donations from the winter holidays. With summer approaching and kids out of school, the demand for food will increase.

"I would encourage people to participate and give what they can. Every little bit helps," Gay said. "Any amount of non-perishable food they're willing to give, somebody in the community could use it and we're happy to pick it up and help in that way."