County Food Bank Hungers For Money To Computerize

November 20, 1990|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff writer

Every time Bruce Michalec sifts through the papers stacked high on his desk, he dreams of logging on to the computer age.

But his chance to computerize records of the food he distributes to county soup kitchens has crumbled, a casualty of the latest state budget cuts.

The director of Anne Arundel's food bank lost a $6,852 grant Friday when the state Department of Human Resources slashed a $200,000 program to outfit distribution centers with new equipment and supplies. A $35,000 sister program to provide emergency food for migrant farm workers on the Eastern Shore also was cut.

"What's unbelievable to us is that these cuts were made after we documented a rise in the need for emergency food," said Linda Eisenberg, executive director of the Maryland Food Committee.

"Lost equipment translates into a lost capability to get donated food to people. If you don't have the shelves, the forklift or the truck, how can you get the food out to the food pantries and soup kitchens?"

The private, non-profit group called a press conference in Baltimore yesterday to lambaste the cuts. Committee officials said 10 food banks and distribution centers in Maryland would lose grants, undermining their ability to provide food for the hungry.

"This is the time to strengthen the partnership between the government and the volunteer sector -- not to dismantle it," Eisenberg said. She challenged the governor to make up lost ground by leveraging donations from private corporations.

Michalec hopes to offset the lost grant through United Way's surplus brokerage program. The county's United Way branch collected $45,000 worth of office furniture and equipment from area companies and donated it to non-profit groups last year.

But he also foresees continuing his shoestring operation in Deale.

Unsure whether he can get all the equipment he needs -- a computer, a photocopier and stainless steel shelves -- from United Way, Michalec is bracing for another lean year.

"I'll have to live with it," he said about the budget cuts. "It's a blow, but hopefully we'll get the monies back in there someday."

Michalec credited the now-defunct Statewide Nutrition Assistance Program for providing $30,000 last year to buy a truck. Without the truck, he said, he could not deliver "the amounts of food I've been bringing all across the county."

SNAP and the migrant nutrition project were victims of a $127 million spending reduction package approved by Gov. William Donald Schaefer and the Board of Public Works last week.

Trying to head off a deficit in the $11.5 billion state budget, Schaefer announced cuts in nearly every state agency. The largest agencies faced the biggest reductions, with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene taking a $11.3 million cut alone.

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