Open Your Heart

November 22, 1992

You see scores of people in line downtown; some have been there as long as two and three hours. Waiting for Orioles tickets?

No, food.

The lunch lines start forming as early as 7 or 8 a.m. outside soup kitchens such as Our Daily Bread. For many of the people in line, it will be their only meal of the day. Some of them will put a portion of their lunch in a plastic bag to save for dinner before they begin eating, lest their stomachs make their minds forget not to eat it all at once. Our Daily Bread's dining room accommodates 100 people -- it serves 800 a day -- and yet the room can be nearly silent during the lunch rush: The goal is to eat.

People juggle many demands in busy lives, but finding the next meal isn't typically one of them. For an increasing number of Americans, though, that task is becoming a daily ritual.

Last year, a Maryland Food Committee survey estimated that the number of meals served by soup kitchens in Central Maryland doubled in just two years. With job prospects still dim and government assistance programs being cut, the number of families in need is ballooning, too. The food committee estimates that children comprise more than half of those served by food pantries.

The seventh Bags of Plenty campaign is now under way. It has become the state's most successful effort to battle hunger. It will succeed again only if you give. This year's goal is to raise 435,000 pounds of food by Nov. 30, same as last year, and $130,000 by the end of December.

Fill bags with as much nutritious, non-perishable food as you can afford and drop the bags off at any Giant Food store, Provident Bank branch, Baltimore City fire station or Baltimore Sun office. Other corporate sponsors and organizations involved are WMAR-TV, radio stations Variety 104.3 and 92Q, the Mass Transit Administration, Urban Services Agencies and Mayor's Stations, the First Call for Help Hotline of Central Maryland and the Maryland National Guard.

Donations of money are also welcome. Checks may be mailed to: Maryland Food Committee, Bags of Plenty, P.O. Box 23709, Baltimore, MD 21203.

If there is any time of the year in which you're likely to think of giving, it is now. Just as the holiday season is a make-or-break time for retail merchants, it is also a make-or-break period for provider agencies, too, which receive half of their canned goods for the year in the coming weeks. Your help is greatly needed and will be greatly appreciated.

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