The NALC National Food Drive is the outgrowth of a tradition of community service exhibited repeatedly by members of the letter carriers union over the years. These carriers, who go into neighborhoods in every town six days a week, have always been involved when something needed to be done, whether it be collecting funds for a charity like the Muscular Dystrophy Association, watching over the elderly through the Carrier Alert program, assisting the American Red Cross during time of disaster, or rescuing victims of fires, crime, and other mishaps.
For many years, a number of branches had collected food for the needy as part of their community service effort. Discussions were held by the NALC, U.S. Postal Service and AFL-CIO Community Services Department to explore a coordinated effort. A pilot drive was held in 10 cities in October 1991, and it proved so successful that work began immediately on making it a nationwide effort.
Input from food banks and pantries suggested that late spring would be the best time since by then most food banks in the country start running out of donations received during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday periods.
A revamped drive was organized for May 15, 1993—the second Saturday in May—with a goal of having at least one NALC branch in each of the 50 states participating. The result was astounding. More than 11 million pounds of food was collected—a one-day record in the United States—involving more than 220 union branches.
From Alaska to Florida and Maine to Hawaii, letter carriers did double duty—delivering mail and picking up donations. It just grew and grew from that point.
2019’s figure brings the total collected since NALC’s food drive began in 1993 to about 1.75 billion pounds.