USPS to deliver more than bills and packages

Mail carriers from the local offices of the United States Postal Service will be doing more than just delivering bills, packages and catalogs on their routes next weekend.

They’ll be picking up extra parcels to benefit those in need during its annual “Stamp Out Hunger” campaign May 14, but they can’t do that without the help of their customers.

Residents are encouraged to put a bag of non-perishable food items at their mailboxes next Saturday for letter carriers to pick up while delivering mail on their regular postal routes. Residents can also bring food to their local post office any time up until May 14.

“Our customers have always been very generous in their support of this annual food drive,” said Poulsbo Postmaster Kris Strand. “It is an easy way to assist those less fortunate in our communities.”

In recent years, North End post offices have found great success in this campaign to help fill food bank shelves during the time of year when supplies tend to run low. Between the post offices of Poulsbo, Kingston, Port Gamble, Indianola, Suquamish and Hansville in 2004, nearly 30,000 pounds of food were donated to the local food banks, including North Kitsap Fishline in Poulsbo, ShareNet Food Bank in Kingston and the Port Gamble S’Klallam Food Bank in Little Boston.

Fishline’s executive director Sharon Kirkpatrick said besides food, the biggest thing she’ll need help with is sorting through what is delivered.

“We are in need of volunteers the day of the food drive to organize food into specific boxes,” she said. “We’re trying to get everything organized in the truck before (the food) gets to the food bank so we can unload it into some type of order.”

As for the types of food needed, which includes canned vegetables, pasta, cake or muffin mixes and cereal, she would also like to see spices and other types of condiments that help give flavor to basic foods.

“You can cook a great pot of rice and beans but with no salt, who is going to eat it?” she said, citing other examples such as cinnamon for cinnamon rolls, ketchup for hot dogs and jelly for peanut butter.

Hansville Postmaster Chuck Cox said his office and the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe have worked closely in the past to make sure the effort is a success.

“(The S’Klallam tribal members) have been generous enough to have a couple trucks that go behind the postal vehicles because they gather so quickly,” Cox said. “It’s a coordinated effort.”

Suquamish postmaster Elizabeth Kaufman said she has noticed that residents have been donating more and more in recent years. About 5,000 pounds of food were collected last year at her office.

“This is a great thing,” she said. “When it first started, I just thought, ‘What a perfect time of the year to do a food drive,’ because I know how low the food banks get.”

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