MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- For anyone who feels foolish about stockpiling Spam, canned soups, cereal and pasta for the Y2K cataclysm that never happened, agencies that feed the poor want to make you feel good again.
America's Second Harvest on Monday announced ''Y Go 2 Waste,'' a national food drive to encourage people to donate their surplus canned and packaged foods.
''The food is very much needed by hungry people,'' said Deborah Leff, president and chief executive officer of America's Second Harvest, the nation's largest domestic hunger relief organization, which helps supply 50,000 charities across the country.
Helped by a $50,000 grant from Kellogg Co., the giant cereal maker, Second Harvest food banks across the country will be conducting drives from Jan. 15 through Feb. 15, Leff said by phone from Chicago.
Using Y2K stockpiles to feed the needy is a much better idea than letting the food gather dust and eventually spoil in people's pantries, food shelf officials across the country agreed.
''We can take all that food off their hands and have it all gone in a month,'' said Janine Laird, executive director of the Minnesota Food Shelf Association, which represents 320 food shelves across the state that distribute more than 24 million pounds of food a year.
''All of us were close to being touched by hunger with the Y2K threat and thank goodness we weren't,'' said Jane Hayden, spokeswoman for the Atlanta Food Bank.
Officials don't know how much food was stockpiled in fear of Y2K. It might be a large resource they can tap, or it might not amount to much, Laird said.
It's possible that only a few shoppers really stocked up, said Steve Sellent, director of the Great Plains Food Bank in Fargo, N.D., which serves North Dakota and Clay County of Minnesota.
''I think we probably at one time expected there would be more, but I think that over the last six months, people realized major problems wouldn't happen,'' Sellent said.
Officials at several food banks said they had not seen any increase in donations as of Monday. Rachel Bristol, executive director of the Oregon Food Bank in Portland, Ore., said many people may be hanging on to their supplies in case they need them for winter storms.
In Columbus, Ohio, food bank officials said it could be days or weeks before people decide what to do with the cans filling their cupboards.
''I don't think it will happen that fast,'' said Evelyn Behm, associate director of Mid-Ohio FoodBank.
Donors should contact their local food shelves before dropping off their contributions because some are momentarily short of space, advised Stormy Trom, director of the Steele County Food Shelf in Owatonna. She said many food shelves are well-supplied at the moment because of holiday donations.
If stockpilers want to wait to make sure the Y2K threat has passed, food shelves also will be happy to take their non-perishables in a couple of months, when donations made earlier in the holiday spirit start running out.
''People are very generous to us over the holidays, but donations drop off to almost nothing in January and February,'' said Rosanne Healey, program coordinator for Carnitas Family Services, which runs a food shelf in St. Cloud. ''This could keep our donations up this year.''
For more information on where to find local food collection sites, call America's Second Harvest at 1-800-771-2303 or access its Web site at www.secondharvest.org
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