Agencies, unions team for peanut butter drive for food banks

Peanut butter — and lots of it — showed up at lunchtime in downtown Everett Thursday, but PB&J sandwiches will have to wait. Nearly a ton of peanut butter is being given to local food banks, just in time to feed hungry kids this summer.

Over the past few weeks, 1,573 jars of peanut butter have been collected by the Snohomish County Labor Council, local labor unions and United Way of Snohomish County.

A first in Snohomish County, the peanut butter drive was modeled on a similar effort by the Pierce County Central Labor Council.

Jars and jars of peanut butter collected here were donated at noon Thursday to Volunteers of America Western Washington during an event outside the Snohomish County Courthouse, 3000 Rockefeller Ave.

“The idea started in Pierce County, and this year it came together for us. The response has been phenomenal,” said Jason Redrup, president of the Snohomish County Labor Council.

Coming the same month as the annual Letter Carriers Food Drive, which was May 10, the peanut butter drive fills a big need when school isn’t in session.

“We serve a lot of families with kids,” said Mark Johnson, vice present of development and communications for Volunteers of America Western Washington. The agency distributes goods to about 20 local food banks through the Snohomish County Food Bank Coalition.

For families whose children qualify for free or reduced-price school lunches, providing nutritious meals is a challenge during the summer. According to United Way, the Snohomish County Food Bank Coalition served 100,737 people in the past year. And during the last school year, 33 percent of children in the county’s public schools were in the free or reduced-price lunch program.

“Peanut butter is easy, high in protein, and liked by kids,” Johnson said.

Readers of nutritional labels know that a 2-tablespoon serving of peanut butter, with about 190 calories, packs 8 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber. It has 16 grams of fat, but much of that is the heart-healthy monounsaturated kind.

Summer is tough for food banks not only due to school vacations but because donations decline. “During the holidays and winter months, people are more likely to give,” Johnson said.

The annual Letter Carriers Food Drive brings in about half the food the VOA receives from food drives all year, he said.

Sara Haner, United Way of Snohomish County’s communications manager, said Tuesday that 248,506 pounds of food were collected in the county during the recent Letter Carriers Food Drive; 70,508 pounds of that were donated by Everett households. That massive effort helped inspire the peanut butter drive, Haner said.

Along with the Snohomish County Labor Council, groups that participated in the peanut butter drive include the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME 109), Professional and Technical Employees (PTE 17), International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW 191) and United Way’s Labor Advisory Committee.

“City and county employees really jumped right in, and gave us a big donation,” Redrup said. “It’s a really important need.”

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

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