The Bags of Plenty food drive, an annual holiday effort to collect food and money for the needy, fell short of its goal this season -- collecting even less food than last year.
Officials at the Maryland Food Committee and the Maryland Food Bank, sponsors of the drive, speculated that the recession has left most families with little to give.
"Often the people who have the least, give the most," said Eileen Gillan, spokeswoman for the Maryland Food Committee. "But this year, those people have lost their jobs and are not in a position to help."
The Bags of Plenty campaign started just before Thanksgiving and ended on Dec. 15. It collected 365,000 pounds of food, more than 50,000 pounds short of its goal and 10 percent less than the amount collected last year, officials said.
The drive also collected $120,000 -- short of its $150,000 goal.
But Maryland Food Bank Director Bill Ewing was not disappointed. "I always end this campaign being extremely upbeat. We had a lot of volunteers, and there are people out there that care, even in these hard times."
The money and food is distributed to soup kitchens and food pantries across Maryland. Last year, officials estimated that they fed more than 75,000 people each week and gave away $260,000 in grants.
And while their cupboards may be a little barer this year, food providers predict the lines outside their kitchens will be even longer.
"It's unthinkable for us to cut back right now," Ms. Gillan said. "We are the last resort for so many people. If we can't provide for them, then no one will."
Mr. Ewing said before next year's food drive, campaign organizers plan to meet to discuss new strategies. He did note that while there may have been a smaller quantity of food collected, the quality was better.
"It was fantastic," he said. "Instead of giving off-brands, they bought nice brands. We got a lot of good tuna fish and peanut butter."