Mail carriers aim to fill local food bank

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Local letter carriers will be collecting food during their routes May 12 in their annual Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive.

Letter carriers from Walla Walla County will partner with the Campbell Soup Company to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the food drive, which turned out to be the nation's largest single-day collection last year.

Nonperishable foods will be collected for the Blue Mountain Action Council Food Bank the second Saturday of May. To participate, leave a bag of food by your mailbox to be picked up when your mail carrier makes the rounds.

Last year's haul included 70.2 million pounds of food across the country. It was the eighth consecutive year that at least 70 million pounds were collected. Organizers are hoping to have their best showing yet on the milestone anniversary of the event, which has grown from a regional to national effort.

Campbell Soup Company and its partners will participate by not only donating 1 million pounds of food to Feeding America, but also through the production of postcards and shopping bags that will serve as reminders of the food drive at 90 million homes across the country.

The Dayton Farmers Market is on the grow.

As organizers prepare to open the 2012 season in early June, they're seeking more vendors to offer goods. The market has expanded with more sellers offering a range of produce, flowers, baked goods and crafts.

This year organizers are also recruiting antique vendors, fundraisers for local clubs and food mongers to operate throughout the season, which runs through October.

Those interested in learning more can attend the annual meeting May 11 at 6 p.m. at the Delaney Building in Dayton. For more information, call Travis Richardson, 386-6431 or Zonia Dedloff at 509-399-2307.

AmericanWest Bank employees and customers dug deep for the company's food drive in April.

Both Walla Walla branches -- on Main Street downtown and on Isaacs Avenue -- raised more than $1,265 and at least 10 shopping carts full of grocery items, according to an update from AmericanWest personal banker Patty Tunell.

The donations will benefit the Blue Mountain Action Council Food Bank. The timing was designed specifically to help stock shelves of local food pantries as the school year wraps up. Families that might normally benefit from subsidized lunch programs through the school district often need a helping hand through the summer months.

April's food drive at AmericanWest branches, set up to help families throughout Washington and Idaho, was operated in partnership with Harvest Foods and Albertson's.

Columbia Rural Electric Association has been recognized for safety.

The Dayton-based electric co-op was honored by the Northwest Public Power Association at its Engineering & Operations Conference earlier in April in Spokane.

The association serves more than 150 customer-owned and locally controlled utilities in the Western U.S. and Canada. Safety among the utilities is a growing focus.

Columbia REA tied for first place with Yellowstone Valley Electric Cooperative in the category of 100,000-125,000 hours of exposure.

Safety contest awards are based on a review of each utility's safety contest form, the 2011 incident rate and the lost work days in 2011.

Collectively, the utilities' average incident rate decreased to 5.5 in 2011 from 6.2 the prior year. The national average incident rate for 2011 was 6.2, according to the announcement.

Participation in the NWPPA's annual safety contest is pointing toward an increased focus on safety, officials said. In 2008, 25 NWPPA utilities participated in the contest; this year, 44 entered.

Curves women's gyms will recognize National Women's Health Week by giving away 30-day memberships.

Nonmembers who visit the local clubs May 13-19 can get a free 30-day membership to try out the operation.

The event commemorates National Women's Health Week, coordinated by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office. It starts on Mothers Day.

Curves gyms in the area -- 2200 Melrose St., suite 3 in Walla Walla and 15 N. Columbia St. in Milton-Freewater -- will host a week of open house events to encourage women to visit the local clubs, pick up free health information, ask questions and get a free fitness assessment.

Visitors can also sign up to attend a special program on National Curves Day, May 17. The program will feature messages from health experts and activities designed to raise awareness of small steps women can take to get healthy.

The 13th annual National Women's Health Week is themed "It's Your Time." The event encourages women to take steps to improve their physical and mental health, including receiving checkups and preventative screenings; eating healthy; becoming more active; managing stress and getting sleep; and avoiding unhealthy behaviors.

For more information on the local Curves operations, call 522-7888 in Walla Walla or 541-938-6996 in Milton-Freewater.

Strictly Business is a local business column. Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at vickihillhouse@wwub.com or 526-8321.

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