LA CROSSE, Wis. -- Mail carriers in our area were delivering more than just mail Saturday.

The Stamp Out Hunger food drive has been a postal tradition for the past 20 years. However, with each passing year, the need for food in our community continues to grow.

But no matter how much it grows the community always seems to be willing to lend a helping hand.

“They're hustling more today,” said Tim Griffen, a La Crosse Post Office mail carrier.

Mail carriers in our area have their work cut out for them Saturday.

“I don't mind it,” said one mail carrier. “It's kind of cool.”

Griffen said Saturday is all about returning a favor.

“Everyone throughout their lives, people are helping you,” said Griffen. “So whether it'd be family, friends, they're helping them to make their life easier. Well, we've received that, so now it's time to return it.”

It's part of a nationwide event where mail carriers across the country are picking up food donations along their mail delivery routes. The food then goes to local organizations to help feed those in need.

It’s an event Shelly Krause of Hunger Task Force said couldn't have come at a better time.

“Oh my gosh, yes,” said Krause. “We need this so bad that I would stay out here for two days straight without sleep to do it. I would.”

The Hunger Task Force supplies food to more than 60 food shelves and meal sites in Western Wisconsin.

But lately, even the food pantry's food pantry is having a hard time keeping up with hunger.

“This is the time of year when the food pantries and the meal sites are just so low,” said Krause. “Hunger Task Force has to put a limit on things and it's really sad that we have to do that, but we have to try and spread the wealth and get the pantries the food that their needing.

Volunteers followed the mail carrier on their routes to help collect all the donations. That effort was organized by the Great Rivers United Way.

“It doesn't take a lot to grab a can or grab a box of macaroni or some peanut butter and when you put out and help your neighbors it just feels good,” said James Falvey, Great Rivers United Way president.

And while this is only a one day event, hopefully the extra effort by everyone will last for a long time to come.

“I think it's just a community working together to take care of one another,” said Griffen. “It's something we do every year and we're going to continue that so we're looking forward to next year after today."

The La Crosse-area organizations that will be benefiting from Saturday's event include Hunger Task Force, New Horizons Shelter and Outreach Center, The Onalaska Food Basket, The Salvation Army and WAFER.

Last year mail carriers in our area collected more than 100,000 pounds of food. It will be a few days before we know exactly how much was collected Saturday.