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Food collected declines as demand grows

Letter carriers and local post offices collected an estimated 134,000 pounds of non-perishable food items that was distributed to Kitsap County food banks on May 11, as part of the 16th annual Letter Carriers Food Drive.

This was down from last year, while the demand for services at local food banks has increased an average of 22 percent in that same time.

“We’re grateful for what we got,” said Marilyn Gremske, volunteer and food pantry manager at Helpline House on Bainbridge Island, where 16,500 pounds of food were collected.

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 percent increase in the number of households they serve compared over 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.

“We’re 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,” said said Monica Bernard, executive director of the Bremerton Foodline.

“We’re thankful for the generosity of Kitsap residents. This is a very important community initiative,” said Dave Foote, United Way of Kitsap County executive director. “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’s how we’re 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.

For more information, visit www.unitedwaykitsap.org.

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