Letter carrier drive helps get food banks through summer
SNOHOMISH COUNTY - Letter carriers around Snohomish County will pick up food for the hungry on Saturday, May 11, which will make its way to the Sky Valley and Snohomish food banks.
The food drive gets the food banks through the summer months.
The U.S. Postal Service’s annual food drive to combat hunger is in its 21st year and makes up nearly half of the yearly contributions for the Snohomish Food Bank, executive director Elizabeth Grant said.
“This is one of the two biggest providers of food for the year,” Grant said. The other being those collected throughout the holiday season.
“Over a six to eight week period during the holidays, the same number of food comes in from the letter carriers in one day,” Grant said.
“It affects us tremendously,” she said.
Chris Clements has been with the Monroe post office for about 24 years and has helped work the letter carrier drive as long as he can remember being employed there. Last week he was in the office at 7 a.m., getting ready to head out on his route and deliver instruction cards to about 700 Monroe addresses that tell residents how they can contribute to the drive.
This week he and his fellow carriers delivered brightly colored bags for people to fill with nonperishable food items. On Saturday, May 11 the bags will be picked up.
Clements said what sticks out about Monroe residents is where on his mail route he finds the most generous people.
“It’s not the richest neighborhoods with the biggest houses,” Clements said.
“The neediest people tend to give more probably because they’ve been through the experience and can identify with it.”
As far as what’s different about this year, Clements said with a laugh: “We’re going to miss the Twinkies.”
For both the Snohomish Food Bank and the Sky Valley Food Bank, the letter carriers’ contributions are what get them through the summer months.
“It’s a great thing and we count on it to keep us in food through the summer when it gets tight,” Sky Valley Food Bank’s Carla Stewart said.
Last year Sky Valley received 8,200 pounds of food on the day of the drive and saw another approximately 8,000 trickle in afterward.
“Then there’s a bunch of food that’s picked up from all of Snohomish County Post Offices that isn’t assigned to a particular food bank, and that goes to the Volunteers of America, which ships to every food bank that’s in the Snohomish County Food Bank Coalition,” Stewart said.
Within the city of Snohomish, the letter carrier drive collected 21,000 pounds of food last year. Before the recession hit, Grant said, the numbers were much higher and have been declining since 2008 when 32,000 pounds were gathered in the letter carrier drive. But she said the Snohomish community, in her opinion, is still one of the most generous in the state.
“We’re a really tight-knit community and they really step up to the plate,” Grant said of her fellow community members.
Another big source of food comes from church and community gardens, Grant said.
“And that’s really great because we get to give out lots of fresh stuff over the summer months,” she said. “They bring us in about 20,000 to 25,000 pounds of produce over the course of the summer.”
Grant said she is currently serving about 250 families per week, which she said is down 50 from the same time last year.
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