FEEDING THE HUNGRY IN THE USA! – letter carriers collect 743 million pounds of food!

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THE National Association of Letter Carriers’ (NALC) annual food drive collected 74.3 million pounds of food and was the second most successful in the programme’s 21 years.

The food was used to restock food banks, pantries and shelters around the country. The total was an increase of 5% over last year and was the highest in a decade.

NALC President Fredric Rolando stressed the importance not only of the food drive, but of the broader service postal carriers provide to their communities in a statement: ‘This demonstrates in clear fashion the value of the unique postal network, which goes to 151 million addresses six days a week.

‘It also shows the remarkable connection between letter carriers and the communities they serve – a bond that serves the nation well.

‘Letter carriers see firsthand the needs in the communities where we work, and we’re honoured to be able to help people in need by leading an effort that brings out the best in so many Americans.’

The NALC effort is the largest annual food drive in the United States and this year it touched 10,000 cities and towns in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Guam.

The drive was successful, in part, because of a diverse group of national partners: Feeding America, Campbell Soup Co., AARP, Valpak Direct Marketing Systems, Valassis/Red Plum, US Postal Service, United Way Worldwide, AFL-CIO, Uncle Bob’s Self Storage, GLS Companies, Source Direct Plastics and the Publix grocery store chain.

Postal employees, union members, civil volunteers and Family Circus cartoonist Jeff Keane also assisted in the effort.

‘We could not have accomplished this without the hardworking team of partners we have, all committed to ending hunger in our country,’ said Pam Donato, NALC community services coordinator.

‘The Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive never has been more important than in these times, with hunger a growing problem – affecting about 50 million people around the country, including 17 million children and 9 million senior citizens.

‘Pantry shelves filled up through winter and holiday generosity often are bare by late spring.

‘And, with most school meal programmes suspended during summer months, millions of children must find alternate sources of nutrition.’

The recent natural disasters, such as tornadoes in Oklahoma and Super Storm Sandy on the East Coast, were particularly tough on food supplies this year and states like Oklahoma, Vermont and New Jersey set food collection records in response.

l The Texas AFL-CIO and Texas American Federation of Teachers (AFT) last weekend, partnered with a Univision station in Austin to promote reading and academic success at the Austin edition of the COPA Univision amateur soccer tournament.

The event included adult and youth men’s and women’s teams.

During the tournament, more than 2,000 people visited the AFL-CIO/AFT exhibit and volunteers gave out more than 1,500 books to children in attendance.

Volunteers reported the exhibit space stayed busy with a steady stream of kids and parents stopping by to get a free book through First Book and to sign petitions supporting a commonsense immigration policy.

AFT has a partnership with First Book, a nonprofit social enterprise that has distributed more than 100 million books to children across the country.

After Univision weather reporter Blanca Gaytan read a story to a group of children, they pledged to read 10 books over the summer.

l Thousands of parents, students, educators and engaged citizens packed the plaza outside the statehouse in Albany, NY, on June 8 to demand fair and equitable school funding, an end to over-reliance on expensive corporate-developed tests, restoration of local school control, and other reforms that can restore the future of public education in the Empire State.

The One Voice United rally, one of the biggest mass demonstrations that New York’s state capital has seen in decades, also highlighted the need to protect the safety of students and staff, restore investments in higher education, institute progressive tax reform, and preserve vital services at the State University of New York’s Downstate Medical Center.

Dick Iannuzzi, president of the AFT-affiliated New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) and an AFT vice president, kicked off the rally with a demand, repeated by the crowd, that the state ‘get it right’ when it comes to the fight for public education and called for an end to the overtesting and underfunding that is hurting students.

Thousands of parents, teachers, students, union members and community members, stretching from one end of the vast plaza to the other, roared their support as Iannuzzi made it clear the mammoth Albany rally is not the culmination but ‘the beginning of a fight and a journey to move public education in the right direction.’

‘We won’t shy away from offering solutions – that’s what we do,’ the NYSUT president declared, vowing to continue to ‘engage every stakeholder in the struggle’ with a firm commitment ‘to the values and principles we stand for’.

The event, he stressed, is not ‘against anyone – today is for children. It is a day for re-examining how we look at testing and the achievement gap, poverty and the wealth gap, and equity and fairness.’

After seeing public education come under siege across the country, Iannuzzi recognized a need to create ‘a New York state moment where we come together to speak with one voice about the future of public education – celebrating educators, not demonising them; supporting quality in higher education, not gimmicks and sideshows.’

He also offered support for the rights of first-generation ‘DREAMERs’, discussed fixing the broken and undemocratic tax cap, and challenged those who dismiss teachers’ concerns as merely a way to dodge accountability in schools.

‘We don’t have any concerns about accountability if you do it right and it’s fair!’ Iannuzzi said. There wouldn’t be tension, he added, ‘if you didn’t put tests before instruction. Or test obsessively … or ignore the voice of parents and teachers!’

Standing atop a box at the podium to take in the massive throng of rallygoers gathered on the plaza, AFT president Randi Weingarten waved a Baldwinsville Teachers Association towel to whip the crowd into a frenzy and asserted, ‘We are here to reclaim the promise of public education.

‘If we do not speak with one voice, then we cannot fight against this growing inequality and inequity.’

Weingarten’s call to arms was echoed by United Federation of Teachers president Michael Mulgrew, who is also an AFT vice president, and Joyce Powell of the National Education Association.

All three leaders made it clear that the event was focused on a fight for the very future of public education. ‘I would rather take on that fight with people like all of you,’ Mulgrew declared, because we ‘are the people who have decided to make a difference in the lives of children’.

The state AFL-CIO and the New York state chapter of the NAACP also added their powerful voices to the calls for true reform. Mario Cilento, president of the New York State AFL-CIO, said: ‘You are not in this fight alone! Your union brothers and sisters across New York state are here with you. Your fight for the future of public education in this state is everybody’s fight!’

Cornelius Clark, president of the Troy NAACP, agreed, saying: ‘We come to lend our voice to those who are fighting for children to have all the resources they need.

‘We are here to say: Let’s make sure every school has all the resources required to provide the kind of education our children need to succeed in life.’