Food Committee helper is there because 'I'm lucky'

Volunteers/Where good neighbors get together

November 06, 1990|By Ellen Hawks | Ellen Hawks,Evening Sun Staff

VOLUNTEER Rose Kalka says she became tired of hearing about hunger ''everywhere I went. So last winter I volunteered to the Maryland Food Committee.

''I've never been hungry, unemployed or unable to support myself, and I'm lucky. Volunteering is my way of helping those who can't help themselves,'' says Kalka, who works evenings at the Cultured Pearl Cafe in the Hollins Market area.

She gives one day a week to MFC, doing office work or mailings, ''whatever they want me to do.'' She was active in the recent RSVVP fund-raiser during which 260 area restaurants gave 10 percent of one evening's proceeds to MFC.

The Maryland Food Committee is a non-profit advocacy organization formed in 1969 by local teachers, physicians and religious leaders to address chronic hunger. It has become one of the most effective statewide anti-hunger organizations in the United States, providing food and funds to soup kitchens and food pantries statewide and offering programs and advocacy to bring about changes in individuals and in government policies that will end hunger permanently.

The MFC slogan is ''You don't have to go halfway around the world to feed the hungry.''

There are 714,000 people in Maryland at risk of chronic hunger and malnutrition, and of those receiving food, 51 percent are children and 7 percent are elderly. In 1980, there were 50 soup kitchens in the state and today there are 600, according to Eileen Gillan Davidson, MFC staff member in charge of public relations. She says that from January to Oct. 15 this year, 352 volunteers to MFC gave 1,448 hours of help. An additional 5,400 hours were given for its Hunger Appeal when volunteers called local churches to ask for continued support. The speakers bureau has had 44 engagements.

Next Tuesday, another fund-raiser, Bags of Plenty, will begin when Mayor Kurt Schmoke launches the campaign at noon in the Rotunda on 40th Street. And, the following morning, Nov. 14, a brown paper bag will be in each copy of The Sun and The Evening Sun.

Citizens who want to participate may fill the bags, or any brown paper bag, with canned goods and take them to any Giant Food store, Provident Bank branch or firehouse where they will be picked up and stored in the Catonsville warehouses of the Maryland Food Bank. They will be distributed to the Maryland soup kitchens and food pantries.

Citizens who do not want to donate canned goods may cut out the coupon to send a money donation to the Maryland Food Committee at 204 E. 25th St., Baltimore 21218. ''The coupon is not necessary to send a donation,'' says Davidson.

With such help, the MFC has played a major role in establishing programs such as the Women, Infants and Children Food Program (WIC), offering supplemental foods to reduce mortality rate, the school breakfast and lunch programs and in getting an additional $650,000 in the state budget for the senior nutrition programs which helped to keep the Eating Together locations open five days each week.

Its SHED (Self Help Empowerment and Development) program, funded and staffed by MFC, is for parents of Head Start children at St. Bernadine's Church who are taught home skills, reading, writing and other self-sufficiency skills.

MFC has targeted the great number of chronic users of the soup kitchens and food pantries who come to the pantries for their groceries for another successful program.

These women are placed in a seven-week MFC-funded program in which they attend four hours each week to learn new ways to prepare food and how to be self-sufficient. Their instruction includes not only nutrition but how to shop, how to budget and child care. Also, they are taught job readiness and other skills.

Some participants joke that they've been through finishing school, says Davidson, but all of them have been very serious and thankful for the opportunity to learn new skills. Some of these women have gone on to obtain their high school equivalency diplomas, and several are entered in college.

Davidson also notes that the soup kitchens and pantries are serving double the number of people from last year because of increased layoffs.

Volunteers are needed by MFC for office work, serving on the public education committee, on the speakers bureau, working on fund-raisers, as board members, committee members and more.

Rose Kalka speaks for MFC. ''No matter how little a person has to give, it is appreciated. And those who will volunteer, no matter what their skills are, should do so.''

Davidson says, ''We need volunteers with all kinds of skills and backgrounds, and we also would like to have those who will commit to an annual contribution to MFC.''

For any information and to volunteer to the Maryland Food Committee, call 366-0600.

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