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Letter carriers collect for food bank
MARYSVILLE — Even as the annual Letter Carriers’ Food Drive May 10, yielded a generous haul for the Marysville Community Food Bank, its director, Dell Deierling, acknowledged that a pressing degree of need remains.
Although the drive generated an estimated 23,600 pounds of food, this amount is 8 percent less than last year’s drive, even though the food bank is serving 5 percent more families than this time last year.
While Deierling couldn’t say for sure what led to this slight year-to-year decline, he did suspect that the needs of the Oso slide survivors might have tapped some donors.
“I totally understand people placing a priority on supporting those survivors first,” Deierling said. “Our food bank has joined others in pitching in for those folks from Oso and Darrington.”
Still, Deierling emphasized the importance of the Letter Carriers’ Food Drive to the Marysville food bank’s operations throughout the year.
“What we got this past Saturday, in many ways, has to sustain us until at least September, if not the winter holidays,” Deierling said. “We do get a bit of a boost when kids head back to school, and start organizing fall food drives.”
Deierling said the Evergreen State Fair’s program of offering free admission to those who bring in some cans for the food banks also has helped.
“Really, though, there are still two big spikes in donations during the year,” Deierling said. “Just as the food that we received this winter got us to this point, so too does this food drive have to see us through to the holidays.”
The approaching three-month intermission in the “Food For Thought” weekend food distribution program is another factor for the food bank to consider.
“This will be two years that we’ve done the ‘Food For Thought’ program, and we’re serving about 250 students on free and reduced-price meals in the Marysville School District,” Deierling said. “The end of the school year cuts off our channel to distribute that food to those kids, and it puts an even greater burden on parents who are already strapped to provide more for their families. It could drive more folks to come in our doors.”
Kym Johnsen, the food bank’s Volunteer of the Year for 2013, encouraged people to donate jams and jellies, cereals, fruit cups and granola bars, albeit healthier varieties of the latter.
“When kids are home from school, it’s easier to get them to eat meals that they can make themselves,” Johnsen said. “Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are quick and simple, but while we get lots of peanut butter, we don’t get as much jam.
“Cereal works not only for breakfast, but also for afternoon snacks,” she added. “Granola bars can be good, but if you’re getting the ones that are chocolate-layered, you’re not really giving your kids something nutritious.”
Johnsen and Deierling agreed that the food bank can never get enough donations of high-protein foods, whether it’s nuts or tuna.
“People worry about nut allergies, but the percentage of the population that has those allergies is very low, and they know they have it,” Johnsen said.
Deierling recommended not only canned tuna, but also canned chicken, fruit and vegetables, and soups, since those will keep without refrigeration.
“Of all things, canned corn is one item that it’s hard to keep stocked on our shelves,” Deierling added.
Johnsen touted the convenience of individual serving cartons of milk for kids, which can be picked up relatively cheaply at stores such as the Grocery Outlet, and warned that fruit juice should be 100 percent.
“If you get something like Capri Sun, you’re getting something like 2 percent actual fruit juice,” Johnsen said.
“We’re putting more of an emphasis on nutrition,” Deierling said.
To that end, the food bank’s “Giving Gardens” program has been accepting homegrown produce from donors for five years.
“Plant a row for the food bank,” Deierling said. “Any type of fruit is popular, and people love carrots and corn. Rhubarb is ready right now, and every zucchini we receive is taken by one of our families. We have some very creative cooks, who know a lot of recipes for zucchini. All told, we probably get around 20,000 pounds of food a year from our ‘Giving Gardens’ alone.”
And before you throw out those expired cartons of milk or other foods with an expiration date stamped on them, check with the food bank as to whether they can still be donated.
“Food is often food well past its expiration dates, since those dates come from the manufacturers,” Deierling said. “Bring it in if you’re not sure.”
As much as the food bank needs more food, it also could use more volunteers.
“We’ve been hurting for volunteers, especially on Monday and Friday mornings,” Deierling said. “If you could assist in serving our clients for two to three hours at a stretch, that would help us out really nicely.”
Deierling said they were able to make do with 25 volunteers during this year’s Letter Carriers’ Food Drive, but they usually have between 35-40.
Ultimately, Deierling wished to express his gratitude to the Marysville community for its support.
“The members of this community have always done a great job of supporting each other,” Deierling said. “If you want your resources of food, money or volunteer labor to be put to effective uses in an efficient manner, this is the place. What we do here impacts the community directly.”