Utah letter carriers will be doing more than delivering and picking up mail along their routes on Saturday, May 9.

As part of a nationwide effort, about 1,700 carriers in Utah - members of the National Association of Letter Carriers - will be collecting food for those in need.The idea originated 20 years ago in Arizona. In Utah, it's the fifth annual food drive, always on the second Saturday of May.

Last year, Utah carriers collected more than 460,000 pounds of food, said Joe Reading of Springville. He is a letter carrier at the Orem Post Office and state coordinator of the project.

Nationwide last year, carriers collected 73.2 million pounds of food.

When Utahns donate nonperishable food, they're helping people served by food banks and pantries throughout the state. Such contributions are very important during the summer because that's when supplies drop in most areas, Reading said.

High-protein foods such as tuna fish and peanut butter are among items particularly sought. But the carriers are happy to pick up any other commercially canned or packaged food, said Michael Lester, director of AFL-CIO community services with the United Way.

She said the food collection is completely voluntary on the part of carriers. Much of the effort is conducted on their own time because it takes longer than a normal eight-hour workday.

In rural Utah many carriers are not members of the National Association of Letter Carriers union, but most of them still participate in the food collection effort.

Campbell Soup Co. is again providing support by donating 10 million pounds of canned goods. The company is also printing some 100 million postcard fliers for mailing to postal customers. United Auto Wokers/Saturn Union Initiative and Saturn dealers throughout the country are lending support to the drive.