Machinists collecting food for Hometeam Harvest

SEATTLE — Volunteers with Machinists Union District Lodge 751 are once again preparing to do their part in the fight against hunger.

Members of the Machinists Volunteer Program — the community-service arm of the union — have begun collecting donations of food and cash for KING-TV‘s annual Hometeam Harvest food drive to benefit the Northwest Harvest food bank.

In addition, as many as 150 District 751 volunteers are expected to be on hand for the Dec. 1 food drive itself, hoping to load semi-trailers with donations of food dropped off by Channel 5 viewers from around Puget Sound.

Members can drop off donations of food or cash at any union hall in Puget Sound.

“Hunger is no game,” said Robley Evans, the MVP chairman. “We see it all too often, through our volunteer work at homeless shelters and at the Northwest Harvest warehouse in Kent.”

According to a recent report, 15.4 percent of Washington families — nearly 1 in 6 — routinely struggles to put food on the table.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 163,000 families statewide don’t have enough to eat, and the level of “food insecurity” here is higher than that in Oregon and Idaho.

The number is rising, the USDA said, even as the economy improves.

“It’s true that more people are working,” Evans said. “But many of them are working in jobs that don’t pay enough, and they’ve burned through whatever savings they may have had.

Northwest Harvest supplies food banks across Washington. Since 2008, the number of people visiting the food banks it supports has jumped 40 percent — from 500,000 a month to 700,000. Northwest Harvest now distributes 26 million pounds of food to those people — up more than 50 percent from 2008.

This will be the 11th year that District 751 volunteers will take part in KING-TV’s annual winter food drive.

Last year, more than 125 union members volunteered. The union’s local lodges and individual members came together to collect $3,563 in cash, plus more than 500 pounds of food. The Washington Machinists Council — the umbrella group for all IAM local and district lodges statewide — contributed another $1,500.

“Truly, the aerospace machinists union has become as much a part of Hometeam Harvest as anyone else,” said Betsy Roberson, the community relations manager for the TV station. “You’re the ones out there directing traffic and carrying those big bags of food from trunks to trucks.”

Originally formed in 1935 to represent hourly workers at the Boeing Co., District Lodge 751 of the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers now represents more than 32,000 working men and women at 48 employers across Washington, Oregon and California. In 2011, members of the union’s Machinists Volunteer Program gave more than 10,000 hours of their time to community service, while other volunteers collected more than $263,000 for Guide Dogs of America, the union’s charity of choice.

Become a fan of IAM 751 on Facebook.

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