Long before noon, the first hungry families arrive at the door, desperate for some food to put on their tables that night.
Some stand with crying babies in their arms and plead for an extra food basket. Others are embarrassed to admit they only have a loaf of bread at home.
This summer's rising demand for emergency food has stripped the Salvation Army in Glen Burnie nearly bare. The shelves in the store-front office, once stocked high with canned goods, peanut butter, tuna fish and pasta, now are nearly empty. A few leftover boxes of crackers and potato chips are all that's left.
"The situation is pretty severe, to say the least," said Peggy Vick, director of the North Arundel Salvation Army. "We're desperate."
Even though the economy hasimproved in recent months, many laid-off workers still haven't returned to their jobs, Vick said. With bills piling up, they are struggling to pay the rent or mortgage on their homes and also keep their children clothed and fed.
"It's very expensive to feed a family," said Marjorie Bennett, who oversees public assistance programs for the county Department of Social Services.
"We've had a very noticeable increase in our requests for food. Most are families who need some food to tide them over until the next check comes along."
Bare shelves are not unique to the Salvation Army program. The Maryland Food Bank, the state's main supplier of bulk food, is feeling the pinch. Anne Arundel's food bank and other pantries also are running out of staples.
The Glen Burnie branch of the Salvation Army used to rely on an A & P reclamation center in Jessup for food, but the grocery chainhas switched to donating its surplus food to the Maryland Food Bank,Vick said.
"It's going to be redistributed, but it will take until some time in September," she said. "That means we're stuck for a whole month with really no food."
Although the Salvation Army enjoyed a record drive during the Christmas season, collecting $80,000 in donations, almost all has been spent on food or given away for emergency rent and medical assistance, Vick said. So was a ton and a half ofcanned goods.
Vick's biggest fear is that she will soon have to turn away hungry families.
"When you're talking about a small childthat has nothing to eat all day but bread and butter, that's a crime," she said. "It's shameful that in the society we live in, we might have to say, "I'm sorry, I have nothing to give you."