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​In an effort to counter springtime food donation slumps, more organizations have teamed together to expand a nationwide initiative on an increasingly local level.


STORY HIGHLIGHTS
Six more companies have joined the second annual, nationwide April food drive
Feeding America and the Walmart Foundation's Fighting Hunger Together are coordinating the program
This year's goal is 35 million contributed meals

A growing number of food companies are teaming with Feeding America and the Walmart Foundation's Fighting Hunger Together campaign in an effort to counter a nationwide slump in springtime food donations.

Six more companies, including Campbell's Soup, Dr. Pepper Snapple Group and Nestle USA, have joined this year's second annual, nationwide April food drive, along with returning companies, ConAgra Foods, General Mills, Kraft Foods group and Kellogg.

The Walmart Foundation says the goal is to collect 35 million contributed meals. Last spring's campaign collected 22 million meals from food companies, said Julie Gehrki, the foundation's senior director.

"As we come into springtime, there is a bit less focus on the issue of hunger," Feeding America President, Bob Aiken said. "Fighting Hunger Together is intended to remind people that the demand is the same all year long."

The drive is once again turning to social media to encourage a greater scope of user involvement, Aiken said. From now through April 30, people can vote for one of the 300 food banks or agencies listed on the campaign's Facebook page. The 40 highest vote-getting food banks will each receive $45,000. In addition, 60 agencies will be awarded $20,000 each, Aiken said. The winner will be announced in May. .

Gehrki said voters "can see how the (organization) would plan to use their dollars." She said the campaign hopes to encourage local awareness of the problem. "It's not just about giving food."

Food banks and agencies report the lowest donations from January to June, compared with highs around the winter holiday months, according to statistics from Feeding America, the nation's largest hunger-relief charity.

In 2012, Feeding America reported roughly 800 million pounds of food donations in April, May and June — a decrease from the one billion pounds of food donated from October to December.

Communities are seeing the same issue:

•The Kenai Peninsula Food Bank in Soldotna, Alaska, received 71,288 pounds of donated food in January and February 2013 for its 2,900 clients, according to Linda Swarner, the food bank's executive director — a sharp drop from the 182,478 pounds donated for 2,673 clients in November and December 2012.

•The food agency Feeding South Dakota distributed 691,990 pounds of food to 14,080 clients from January to June 2012, said Matt Gassen, the agency's executive director. From January to June 2011, the agency recorded 766,632 pounds of food for 13,327 clients.

• St. Mary's Food Bank Alliance in Phoenix recorded 17.4 million pounds of food from January to March 2013, a decrease from the 18.7 million pounds donated from October to December 2012, according to Sarah Stuckey, the food bank's chief communication officer.

In addition to the Fighting Hunger Together campaign, the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) will host its 21st annual food drive May 11. Postal customers nationwide will be encouraged to leave food by their mailboxes for letter carriers to pick up.

The one-day collection provides the support food banks and agencies need to tie them through the spring and into the fall, said Pam Donato, the NALC director of community and membership outreach. The NALC collected 71 million pounds of food in 2012, she said. For some food banks, the donations can support their shelf for up to six months.

"I think no one in America should be hungry," Aiken said. "In a country where there is plenty of food, it's a question of connecting the food to the people in need."