Postal carriers collect more than 37,000 pounds of food

Longview and Kelso postal carriers collected 37,424 pounds of food Saturday on their mail routes during the National Association of Letter Carriers food drive.

The food donated Saturday was 4,100 pounds shy of the 41,570 pounds collected during last year’s event (about a 10 percent drop), but it will replenish the Help Warehouse food bank’s dwindling supplies.

“The figures are a little down, but we are delighted with the response. Given the prolonged economic recession in this community, we are amazed that people can be so generous and willing to share their food with other families who are still struggling financially,” said Alan Rose, Lower Columbia CAP’s community relations and development director.

Saturday, an army of volunteers from local businesses, schools and agencies helped unload food from mail trucks and box it up in the Longview Help Warehouse basement. Vernie’s Pizza donated food for the volunteers, and Starbucks provided coffee.

Kelso collected 9,069 pounds of food this year, compared to 10,200 pounds in 2012. Longview collected 28,355 pounds, down from 31,370 pounds last year.

The food drive’s banner year was 2010, when residents donated 51,500 pounds of food. Since then, the tallies have steadily fallen. But the need is still there. Area food banks give an average of 5,200 food boxes per month. The last of the Walk n’ Knock donations from December are long gone, according to Help Warehouse program manager Lois Shelton.

The Letter Carriers food drive, coordinated by Local 2214 in Longview, is the second-largest local food drive of the year, after Walk n’ Knock. The food collected in Longview and Kelso goes to the Help Warehouse food bank run by Lower Columbia CAP. Local 2214 also helped coordinate efforts in Castle Rock, Kalama, Woodland, Cathlamet, Clatskanie, Rainier and St. Helens, Ore. The outlying communities’ food will be delivered to their local food banks.

Postal workers are aware of the hunger in their community, local organizer Tim Dietz said.

“We walk through neighborhoods each day where we know there are families whose children are not getting all the food they need,” he said.

Last year, postal carriers collected 70 million pounds of food across America during the nation’s biggest food drive, which is in its 21st year. It’s organized by the National Association of Letter Carriers with help from the National Rural Letter Carriers Association.

Photos of the Longview-Kelso food drive are posted on the CAP Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Lowercolumbiacap.

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