Letter carriers deliver hope to food banks

That bag in your mailbox isn’t for trash. Don’t take it out to walk the dog. Mail carriers delivering bright yellow bags this week hope to pick them up Saturday filled with nonperishable food.

Saturday is the annual Letter Carriers Food Drive. Its success is critical to feeding people in need, especially through the summer when food bank donations are down and kids are out of school.

Last year, the drive here brought in 248,506 pounds of food, according to United Way of Snohomish County spokeswoman Sara Haner. That was half of all food the public donated for local food banks for all of 2014, said Mark Johnson, a spokesman for Volunteers of America Western Washington.

Just this month, more than 48,000 people will visit a food bank in Snohomish County, according to VOA. Leann Christensen, the agency’s senior director of basic needs, said one person out of seven in the county is “food insecure.”

“More than 50 percent of our clients are families with children,” Johnson said Wednesday. During the school year, free and reduced-price breakfast and lunch programs are a safety net. Some families have access to meal programs over the summer, but food budgets are stretched.

Nationally, Saturday’s event is known as the Stamp Out Hunger food drive. Here, the 23rd annual Letter Carriers Food Drive is organized by the National Association of Letter Carriers Local 791, United Way, VOA and the Snohomish County Labor Council.

Johnson praised Snohomish County employees who organize an annual March Against Hunger food drive for VOA each March. This year, county workers donated more than 6,000 pounds of food. “They do an amazing job,” Johnson said.

And the Snohomish County Labor Council, Machinists Union members and other labor groups are now collecting peanut butter for the council’s second annual peanut butter drive. More than 1,500 jars of peanut butter were donated last May.

Peanut butter, canned meats and other protein-rich foods are needed Saturday, too, Haner said. To spread the word on social media, she said United Way hopes people will use #Feed-SnoCo on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

Where will all that food go?

Johnson said letter carriers will take it Saturday to one of four major post offices. Volunteers from Hogland Transfer Co. Inc. in Everett will pick up loads in big trucks. The business also provides storage.

“They store it, and bring a full trailer to our distribution warehouse every two weeks until the food is gone,” Johnson said. Those deliveries to VOA in Everett will continue “at least a couple months,” he said.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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