New food drive administrator comes full circle

Donations slow down considerably this time of year, which is why the Letter Carriers’ Food Drive, the nation’s largest one-day food drive, is vital for the Food Bank and for the people it serves.

The concept behind the annual event is actually quite simple. On the Saturday before every Mother’s Day, community members are encouraged to place a bag of nonperishable groceries by their mailbox. From there, countless postal workers, food bankers, and volunteers transport and sort the food to give out to people in need.

Coordinating this massive effort behind the scenes is Neil Zarchin, the Food Bank’s new Food Drive Administrator. With over 6 years of experience in food banking, 33 years of experience as a letter carrier, and a defining memory from his childhood fueling his passion to fight hunger–there is no one more qualified to hit the ground running.

Although Neil is new to this role as Food Drive Administrator, he might be a familiar face to some. Before taking on his new position, he was the Food Bank’s Grant Writer. It was his extensive roots with the Letter Carriers’ Food Drive (also known as Stamp Out Hunger) that gave him the desire to initially seek employment at the Food Bank after he retired from the Post Office in 2012. “The more I got to know about the nature of hunger in America, and the work of the Food Bank, the more inspired I became. I knew I wanted to work at the Food Bank when I grew up,” he says with a smile.

Neil’s roots to the Letter Carriers’ Food Drive go back almost three decades before it came nationwide. He recalls when just a few of the local post offices within the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) union started participating in these food drives, including Martinez and Fairfield. Neil ended up serving as the NALC Branch Coordinator for the event for an astounding 17 years!

It’s not just his past work experience that makes Neil an asset to the Food Bank. Beyond his ideal resume is a deep empathy for others that is essential in pulling off a food drive of this magnitude.

Neil recalls, “When I was 10 years old, someone broke into our garage and cleaned out our extra freezer; nothing else was taken. I asked my parents if they were going to call the police and they said ‘no because they could have taken everything and they only took food and they can have it.’ That made a huge impression on me and I’ve held onto that.”

Having done the work himself, Neil can vouch to the tremendous effort the letter carriers put into this event. At the same time, he can offer some perspective on behalf of those who will end up receiving the food. “Working the food drive as a letter carrier is an incredibly difficult day, but it’s one day a year. Everyone is more than willing to pitch in and make it happen. We all realize it’s easier to work one very difficult day than it is to be struggling week after week, juggling bills and trying to feed your family nutritious food.”

When you are at the store this week, please pick up some extra nonperishable groceries and leave them in a bag by your mailbox before delivery on Saturday, May 11. Click here for our list of most needed food. Every can, bag and box of food makes a difference!


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