It doesn't take an official survey to show that there are more hungry people than ever in Maryland; a quick glance at the long lines outside any soup kitchen ought to suffice. Nonetheless, recent statistics confirm that Maryland's food providers are under tremendous new strains; some are serving double the number of people they fed last year.
The reasons for the increase are many. Chief among them are workers who have been laid off because of the national economic downturn and are finding their savings won't stretch far enough. Working people in low-wage jobs can't make it anymore either, and government help is pretty paltry. Food stamps average less than 57 cents per person per meal. Before the end of the month, they are gone. Meanwhile, the price of everything from gas to heat is rising, and more people -- particularly children and the elderly -- are falling through the cracks.
With federal and state budget deficits growing, the fight to end hunger hinges on local food drives like "Bags of Plenty." Now in its fifth year, the program is a joint effort by the Maryland Food Committee and the Maryland Food Bank to bolster supplies at the state's soup kitchens and food pantries. Today, every copy of The Evening Sun contains a special grocery bag to be filled with non-perishable foods and dropped off at a Giant supermarket, Provident Bank or city fire station. Coupons on the bags offer a chance to make a cash donation, part of which will fund programs that help families get back on their feet.
As the season of giving approaches, simple humanity argues for the more fortunate among us to work together and show those who are struggling that we have the heart and the will to help.