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Drive Underway to Help Feed Maryland's Hungry


video graphic CNS-TV reports on the Harvest for the Hungry food drive. (RealPlayer file, 45 seconds)

By Diego Mantilla
Maryland Newsline
Tuesday, March 6, 2007; video added Friday, March 9, 2007

BALTIMORE - Corporations, nonprofits and the U.S. Postal Service are joining together this week for a food drive that promoters hope will collect at least 500,000 pounds of food for Maryland shelters and soup kitchens.

“We are asking people for tuna fish. We are asking them for soup. We are asking them for vegetables … things that the food banks don’t readily see,” said Larry V. Adam, founder of the Harvest for the Hungry drive, which has collected 25 million pounds of food since 1986.

Last year, the drive collected 544,000 pounds of food, Adam said at a press conference Friday. “This year, we have to break the 500,000 pounds level again,” he said.

The Maryland Food Bank, and the people it serves in Baltimore City and Baltimore County, would be among the beneficiaries of the food drive.

Since Saturday, when the drive kicked off, until this  Saturday, people can drop off dry goods in any post office throughout the state. Or, they can leave food next to their mailbox and a carrier will pick it up.

“We see the effects of poverty and hunger in our customers every day,” said Bill Ridenour, acting postmaster of Baltimore. “And our customers have reluctantly had to make the choice between paying their rent, paying their gas and electric bill, and buying food. And we feel that nobody should have to make that choice.”

Boy and Girl Scouts, Safeway stores and Coldwell Banker are also helping.

Hunger in Maryland

America’s Second Harvest, a national network of food banks, put out a report last year that detailed who food banks serve in Maryland.

The report found that half the households served had at least one working adult.

Almost 30 percent of members of households served were children under the age of 18.

About three quarters of the people served by food banks in Maryland were either black or Hispanic.

About 6 percent of households served were homeless.

Also, according to the report, 46 percent of people served had to choose between paying for food and paying their mortgage or rent, heating costs or medical bills.

--Diego Mantilla

Hugh Travis, executive director of the Boy Scouts of Central Maryland, said that 8,000 Boy Scouts from 600 units delivered 600,000 empty plastic bags door to door during the weekend of Feb. 24. The bags, donated by Safeway and filled by caring Marylanders, were collected over the weekend. The Boy Scouts hope to collect 285,000 pounds of food -- 14,000 pounds more than last year, Travis said.

Danita Terry of the Girl Scouts of Central Maryland said the Girl Scouts collected 62,000 plastic bags filled with food.

Coldwell Banker employees are collecting food at certain Safeway locations, and Coldwell Banker realtor offices will serve as food drop-off points.

“This drive is about corporate philanthropy and responsibility,” said Deborah Flateman, executive director of the Maryland Food Bank.

The Maryland Food Bank and the Capital Area Food Bank are the two main organizations that will distribute the collected food to soup kitchens, shelters, pantries and other providers. The Maryland Food Bank will distribute food collected in Baltimore City and Baltimore County. The Capital Area Food Bank will distribute food collected in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. Shelters and soup kitchens throughout the state could benefit.

The collections this week are just one piece of the food banks' continuing efforts to feed those in need. The Maryland Food Bank in western Baltimore, for instance, distributes about a million pounds of food every month, said ShannaYetman, communications manager.

The Maryland Food Bank distributes food to providers in exchange for a small fee that ranges from 8 cents to 14 cents a pound, Yetman said.

Among those providers is the Helping Up Mission in Baltimore, which serves about 700 meals daily. Executive Director Bob Gehm said the Helping Up Mission gets about 4,000 pounds of food each week from the Maryland Food Bank.

Copyright 2007 University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism

Banner graphic by Hortense Barber and Diego Mantilla. Banner photos of homeless person's cart and homeless man sitting are courtesy of Greg Sileo.


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