Letter carriers' food drive breaks record

"Kitsap County residents donated a record 47,450 pounds of food this year during the letter carriers' food drive May 13. Letter carriers drove the food to the St. Vincent de Paul food bank in Bremerton, where it was distributed to other food banks.This year was the best year yet for the food drive, said Denise Agee, coordinator with St. Vincent de Paul's. It's very awesome.Agee said people this year donated more useable food than they have in years past - food that is not nearing the expiration date or in damaged containers that could lead to spoilage. They put more thought into it, Agee said. We got cereal, which is really, really good to get, especially hot cereal. It's good for seniors and children - it stretches. People also donated canned fruit and peanut butter - mainstays for kids' lunches when school lets out for the summer. Summer vacation often presents a difficulty for low-income parents because children who were eating breakfast and lunch at school need to be provided for at home.When the money wasn't there before, it's really not going to be there now, Agee said.Agee said she noticed more personal care items were donated this year, which she called wonderful. Food bank volunteers pack personal care items, like dish soap, bar soap, toothpaste and toilet paper, into the food baskets.St. Vincent de Paul volunteers pack about 850 food baskets a month, Agee said. They provide food for a variety of people, from seniors to single men.The majority of people coming in are working class poor - they're working, but they're not making money, Agee said. Every month, the need for food grows. It's real frustrating to all of us, Agee said. Without the food drives, we couldn't begin to feed a third of the people we feed. We rely greatly on donations: volunteers, cash donations and food donations.Food bank volunteers try to ensure visitors feel welcome and comfortable. It doesn't have to be so degrading to come into the food bank, Agee said. I want people to know I'm just a person, even though I'm on the other side of the counter. My priority is to feed everyone who is hungry and to take care of our senior citizens."

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