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Giving hunger the boot
A 2009 Dodge Ram pickup truck is quickly filling up with food at Bremerton Dodge.
The car dealership is one of many businesses or nonprofit organizations trying to "send hunger packing."
The American Red Cross, Kitsap Credit Union, KPS Health Plans and United Moving & Storage teamed up to collect food for local food banks throughout November.
"We're a humanitarian organization and we look for ways to help in our own community," American Red Cross West Sound Service Area Director Janet Heath said.
Heath said the Red Cross Youth Corps came up with the idea for Send Hunger Packing and the AmeriCorps took it from there.
"It started out from a conversation with the Youth Corps about what we can do for the community and AmeriCorps took it up," she said.
Heath said the Red Cross did not have money to put toward the supplies needed for the campaign and that's where Kitsap Credit Union, KPS Health Plans and United Moving & Storage stepped in.
The organizations teamed up and distributed boxes to more than 50 businesses and nonprofit groups in Kitsap County at the beginning of the month.
"You can really recognize it because of the 'Send Hunger Packing' logo on the box," said Jackie Fojtik, Red Cross youth program manager for the West Sound Service Center.
Send Hunger Packing boxes can be found at businesses throughout the county including Bremerton Dodge, Harrison Medical Center, KPS Health Plans, Kitsap Credit Union, Safeway and Walgreens.
Food collected through Send Hunger Packing is taken to the Bremerton Foodline, where it is then distributed by pound to all eight food banks in the county.
"I think everybody is pretty much on the same page when there's a great need," Fojtik said. "Kitsap County is a very giving community."
Fojtik said the Send Hunger Packing campaign has collected more than 7,000 pounds of food so far, but donations are really flying in now as the holidays approach.
"The boxes are really filling up now," she said.
"Everybody's busy during the holiday season and it's just a way to go outside yourself," Heath said.
Tracee Dunn, of AmeriCorps, said AmeriCorps members stood outside grocery stores throughout the county Nov. 14 and collected 4,100 pounds that day alone. She said she would like to collect 20,000 pounds of food for the local food banks before the end of November.
"I'm just excited to see the total," she said.
Angela Bellomo, also of AmeriCorps, said she tears up when people donate items. She said a lady had been collecting food and household items in the trunk of her car, but did not know where to donate the goods until Nov. 14 when AmeriCorps members were at the grocery stores collecting things for Send Hunger Packing.
"Some people don't know how or where to donate," Bellomo said.
While nonperishable foods are the main things needed to "send hunger packing," Fojtik said they will collect household items, toiletries, even dog and cat food to send to the food banks.
"Any kinds of items that you'd need in your everyday life, but mostly the staples is what you're looking for," she said.
Kitsap Credit Union is continuing the Send Hunger Packing campaign into their Pierce and Mason county offices. Items collected at those locations will benefit the food banks in those counties.
Send Hunger Packing concludes at the end of the month, but Fojtik said businesses who would like to keep their boxes and continue to collect food through December are welcome to do so.
"Anybody who wants to continue it on we highly encourage it," she said. "We will totally support it."
Fojtik added that the Red Cross hopes to make Send Hunger Packing a regular holiday campaign.
"We hope the need in the area subsides, but we hope to make it an annual event," she said.