OCEAN CITY — One after another, the postal trucks rolled up to the back of St. Peter’s United Methodist Church on Eighth Street through the afternoon Saturday, lining up along the alley to deliver tons — more than 3 tons, to be exact — of donated food to the Ocean City Food Cupboard.
The letter carriers and volunteers unloaded each truck and handed the boxes to a fireman’s line snaking inside the building, where the nonperishable food was sorted to be distributed through the summer.
More volunteers worked on sorting, piling pasta here, cans of tuna there, microwavable dinners somewhere else, and stacking them in the cupboard for future distributions.
Letter carriers around the nation participate in the Stamp Out Hunger food drive on the second Saturday in May each year. Post offices throughout the region collect food from people on their route to be given to the Community FoodBank of Southern New Jersey. Last year, the drive collected 80 million pounds of food nationally.
In Ocean City, the letter carriers collect for the local Food Cupboard, run for decades out of the basement of St. Peter’s by the Ocean City Ecumenical Council, an organization of churches in the community.
Dottie Cianci, the coordinator of the Food Cupboard, said the drive collects 4,000 to 5,000 pounds of food from Ocean City doorsteps each spring, which is a significant help to keeping the cupboard stocked. There’s another food drive in the fall as well.
“We’re at 4,500 and still going,” someone shouts from around the corner while the volunteers struggle to keep up with the steady flow of boxes and canned goods. By the end of the day, the total count was 6,620 pounds of donated food.
“We did a fantastic job,” said Cianci. “We thank the public for doing it.”
The cupboard offers emergency food aid, designed to keep individuals and families fed while awaiting public assistance or other aid. People are allowed one visit to the cupboard per month, she said. The cupboard is open from 1 to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, excluding holidays.
On Saturday afternoon, the Food Cupboard had taken over additional rooms in the church. But Cianci said they had to be all cleared out by Sunday morning so the rooms could be used for their usual purposes.
This year, Cianci said, she was understaffed, in part because the local Boy Scout troop usually helps out. This weekend most of the troop were on a camping trip. One scout was on hand, and in uniform. Rolando Camargo, 18, is a Life Scout in the process of becoming an Eagle Scout, the highest rank in the organization. While loading up bags, he said he faces his Eagle review board in June.
Outside, things were slowing down for the men from Coastal Christian Ocean City, who spent hours unloading the mail trucks.
“This is one of the best things I’ve ever been involved in,” said church member Ed Fugee, of Egg Harbor Township.