After an alarmingly slow start for this year's Bags of Plenty campaign, officials of the Maryland Food Committee and the Maryland Food Bank said yesterday that a weekend of generous donations has made them "cautiously optimistic" that they will reach their goals.
"I think people responded when the message went out that the response was low and that some people might go hungry on Thanksgiving," said Bill Ewing, director of the Food Bank, which will distribute 5,000 Thanksgiving food baskets to the needy.
"We picked up a lot of momentum last weekend and we just hope it will continue," said Linda Eisenberg, director of the Food Committee. "Broad, enthusiastic support is the only way this effort will be successful."
The annual campaign to raise food and funds for the state's needy began last Wednesday, and as of yesterday 20 percent of the goal had been reached.
Ms. Eisenberg said her group has received donations of about $22,000 toward a goal of $150,000 by Dec. 14.
Mr. Ewing said he hoped to collect 650,000 pounds of food by next Monday; as of yesterday, 150,000 pounds had bee collected. He said food for the Thanksgiving baskets would be distributed to various organizations today. The remaining food will be used to keep food pantries and soup kitchens supplied through the winter.
Even as the troubled economy has fueled the demand for services by soup kitchens and food pantries -- many have doubled the number of people they serve -- it also has led to a dramatic decline in holiday generosity.
Still, officials in the Bags of Plenty campaign are hopeful that after the fruitful weekend, their dry spell is over.
"There is a pattern to these campaigns," Ms. Eisenberg said. "They usually start off slowly, but as the holidays get closer people start to do their grocery shopping and they begin to realize that there are many who are less fortunate."
How to help
To contribute to the Bags of Plenty campaign, fill a shopping bag with non-perishable grocery items such as canned meats or vegetables. The bag should be delivered to a Giant Food store, a Provident Bank office or a Baltimore City fire station.
A check payable to the Bags of Plenty can be mailed to the Maryland Food Committee, P.O. Box 23709, Baltimore, Md. 21203.