At a time when the demand for emergency food assistance is rising sharply, the Maryland Department of Human Resources is eliminating funding for two nutrition programs that help feed the poor.
The state's budget cuts, which total $235,000, will make it harder for Maryland's non-profit food banks to meet the increasing demand for emergency food aid, Linda Eisenberg, executive director of the Maryland Food Committee, said yesterday.
The cuts also will threaten a badly needed food assistance program for migrant farm workers on the Eastern Shore, she said.
"This is the time to strengthen the partnership between the government and the volunteer sector -- not dismantle it," Ms. Eisenberg said.
The cuts in nutrition programs represent a small fraction of the $127 million in spending reductions and belt-tightening ordered last week by the Schaefer administration in response to a budget deficit estimated at from $180 million to $322 million.
The state is cutting $200,000 from the Statewide Nutrition Assistance Program, which helps non-profit food banks expand or improve their services by fixing leaky roofs, repairing refrigeration equipment or picking up the tab for other capital expenses.
Another $35,000 is being cut from the migrant nutrition project, which provides emergency food assistance to hundreds of migrant farm workers on the Eastern Shore.
The food banks affected by the cuts are scattered throughout the state and serve thousands of poor, hungry people, Ms. Eisenberg said.
The non-profit agencies would not stop collecting and bTC distributing food to soup kitchens and pantries throughout the state, she said. But the cuts would make it harder for the food banks to expand their services to meet demand.
A survey of half the soup kitchens in Central Maryland this month showed a 50 percent increase in the number of meals being served to the poor, Ms. Eisenberg said. The number of meals jumped from 12,100 at this time last year to 18,700 this year -- the result of an economy sinking into recession.