With Thanksgiving nearing, the Maryland Food Bank is facing a serious shortage of food for its holiday baskets.
The Food Bank was hoping to collect 650,000 pounds of food by Nov. 26 through its annual Bags of Plenty food collection program, which began Wednesday. But as of yesterday only 40,000 to 50,000 pounds had been donated, said Bill Ewing, Food Bank director.
"We're feeling a particular sense of urgency because we've made a commitment to deliver 5,000 boxes of food" before Thanksgiving, Mr. Ewing said.
The 5,000 boxes, to be distributed tomorrow, Tuesday and Wednesday, will contain $30,000 in canned hams, chickens and traditional Thanksgiving food already purchased by the Food Bank.
But organizers were hoping to distribute at least 100,000 pounds of food from the Bags of Plenty drive in the boxes as well.
If the food doesn't come in fast, the boxes won't be as full this year, Mr. Ewing said.
Food donated after Thanksgiving will be used to supply soup kitchens, church programs and other organizations that give food to the poor throughout the winter, Mr. Ewing said. Donations are particularly important this year because more people are using soup kitchens.
A recent survey of 30 Baltimore-area soup kitchens found they are now collectively feeding more than 18,000 people a week -- an increase of nearly a third from this time last year. While the drive often begins slowly, this year has been especially slow because of the warm weather, Mr. Ewing said. "In the nice weather, it's hard to get attention," he said. "We need a snowstorm."
Mr. Ewing said he didn't believe the slowdown in the economy was responsible for the lack of donations.
"My gut feeling is that if times get hard they'd rather give food than money," he said. "I think a canned food drive could succeed in the Depression."
How to help
To contribute food to the Bags of Plenty campaign, fill shopping bag with non-perishable groceries such as canned meat and vegetables. The bags should be delivered to a Giant Food store, Provident Bank office or Baltimore City fire station.
Checks payable to Bags of Plenty can be mailed to the MarylanFood Committee at P.O. Box 23709, Baltimore 21203.