Schaefer, lawmakers score low in report on aiding the hungry

June 22, 1993|By Shanon D. Murray | Shanon D. Murray,Staff Writer

Gov. William Donald Schaefer's efforts in funding programs to feed Maryland's hungry earned him a C, which is just slightly better than the C-minus the General Assembly earned, according to this year's report card from the Maryland Food Committee.

The grading ranges from A for excellent to F for failing. The committee determined the grades by assessing how much of the state's fiscal year 1994 operating budget is dedicated to alleviating hunger across the state.

The governor and the legislators received an A and a B, respectively, for their efforts to feed mothers and infants, B's for feeding senior citizens, and D's for feeding schoolchildren. Both received a C-minus for fighting poverty.

The committee gave the governor and the legislature failing grades in "tax equity."

"The current Maryland tax structure needs to be made more fair for citizens with lower incomes," the report card explained. "Middle- and lower-income people pay a greater share of their earnings in taxes than upper-income citizens."

The report card was released yesterday at a news conference at the St. Ambrose Outreach Center in Northwest Baltimore.

"We based the grades on the fiscal budget because money talks," said Eileen Gillan, spokeswoman for the Maryland Food Committee. "We need more money from the state to alleviate hunger on the short term while we work on the long term."

Welford McLellan, a spokesman for Mr. Schaefer, who is currently touring Europe, said the governor is the Maryland Food Committee's "biggest booster."

"They gave him a C because they want even more. The governor's commitment is clear," he said. "Is the legislature going to give him a blank check to feed all of Maryland's hungry?"

The governor and the legislature received D's in feeding schoolchildren because, the "state subsidy for the School Meals program has been cut every year for the past three years -- from $8 million to $4.3 million. . . . The fiscal year 1994 budget has maintained the same funding level as fiscal year 1993," the report card said.

Sister Charmaine Krohe, director of the St. Ambrose Center, said the center's soup kitchen and pantry served 65 people a day at the beginning of last week, but by Friday, the number had grown to 210 daily.

"It deals with schools being out and families not being able to feed their kids and pay their bills," she said.

"I have been working with [St. Ambrose] for 21 years and I thought it would get better, but it's getting worse," she said.

More than 11 percent of Maryland's children -- an estimated 134,000 -- go hungry in any given month, according to a national study issued last week by the Tufts University Center on Hunger, Poverty and Nutrition, which is located near Boston.

Linda Eisenberg, executive director of the Maryland Food Committee, said it is simple to feed the hungry with the cooperation of the private sector and the state and federal governments.

"Much has been done outside of the public sector to help the hungry, but until the state put its money where its mouth is, we will never end hunger," she said.

Last year, the Maryland Food Committee awarded the governor a C-plus and the General Assembly a D-plus for their overall efforts.

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