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Letter Carriers Collect 134,000 Pounds of Non-Perishable Food as Demand at Food Banks Continues to Grow

Saturday, May 10th marked the sixteenth annual Letter Carriers Food Drive, a national initiative and partnership between United Way of America and the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Letter carriers and local post offices estimate they collected 134,000 pounds of non-perishable food items that will be distributed to Kitsap County food banks. Pounds of food collected on Saturday is down from last year while the demand for services at local food banks has increased an average of 22 percent in one year.

“We are grateful for what we got,” said Marilyn Gremske, Volunteer and Food Pantry Manager at Helpline House on Bainbridge Island. 16,500 pounds of food was collected on the Island. According to Gremske, Helpline House has seen a 20 percent increase in the number of people they serve.

Across the county, food banks and pantries are seeing more and more clients. Bremerton Foodline has seen a 27% increase in the number of households they serve compared to last year. In the Bremerton School District nearly 60 percent of children are now eligible for the Free Lunch School Program. Families eligible for this USDA Program must have a household income that falls below 185 percent of the United States Department of Health and Human Services poverty guidelines. This percentage means a family of four cannot earn more than $40,000 per year.

Federal Poverty Guidelines were developed in the late 1950’s. “These guidelines help us determine who may or may not be eligible for a certain program. They do not reflect the true cost of living,” said Monica Bernard, Executive Director of Bremerton Foodline. “We are seeing more people more frequently and sadly our staff is no longer surprised to see an individual dressed for work when they come to our food bank.”

“We are thankful for the generosity of Kitsap residents, this is a very important community initiative,” said Dave Foote, Executive Director of Kitsap County. “These numbers are not what we hoped for and indicate just how difficult it is for families to make ends meet. We need to continue to work together, that is how we are going to help the community and those in need.”

The campaign is held at a time of year when shelves at many food banks are nearly bare and just before the end of the school year. According to Bernard, the food collected for Bremerton Foodline will last just over a month if demand does not increase further.

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The Letter Carriers Food Drive is sponsored locally by the National Association of Letter Carriers with the support of the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association, United Way of Kitsap County, Blue Cross Blue Shield and the Kitsap Newspaper Group/Sound Publishing.

The mission of United Way is to provide leadership and support to identify community needs and leverage resources to create measurable, positive and lasting change in people’s lives throughout Kitsap County. United Way of Kitsap County is an independent, non-profit organization. The agency has been in operation since 1937 and is the largest funder of health and human services in Kitsap County. For more information please visit www.unitedwaykitsap.org

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