No need for express lanes with food co-op SHARE members trade services for discounted groceries

August 02, 1993|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff Writer

Three area organizations are marketing a nonprofit food cooperative in Carroll County, and the more members they enroll, the more food will be available for all to share.

SHARE (Self Help and Resource Exchange) is grocery buying made easy and inexpensive. For $13 and two hours of volunteer service a month, SHARE members receive $30 worth of food.

"If you eat, you qualify," said Joan M. Raznick, director of the SHARE program at St. Joseph Catholic Community in South Carroll, which joined the worldwide program in April.

Ms. Raznick, who "ate miniature fresh muffins all the way home" after the last distribution day, can attest to the variety, freshness and flavor of the groceries.

"You will be surprised how good the food is," she said. "They even give you recipes."

Once a month, participants take home two grocery bags full of frozen meats, fresh fruits and vegetables, and baked goods, without doing battle in checkout lines.

In Maryland, the nonprofit organization, run like a food cooperative, is operated by Catholic Charities and based in Baltimore County.

Statewide, 114 churches, Head Start programs, labor unions, apartment complexes, civic associations, senior centers, lodges, schools and other organizations already sponsor SHARE.

The program's purpose is twofold: to provide good, fresh food at minimum cost, and to increase community volunteer involvement.

The volunteer work is "any community service you do for people outside your family, for which you are not paid," said Mary D'Ambrogi, SHARE representative, who helps organizations start the program.

"It may be something you are already doing and just never thought of as community service."

Anna Rollins, who coordinates the program for Human Services Programs of Carroll County, said even homebound people can participate.

"They can call to check on other shut-ins or make crafts for church bazaars," she said.

With about 100 participants, Human Services has "exceeded its goals as far as participation," since it began sharing in February, she said.

"We mainly target senior citizens and low-income families but we welcome middle-income families, too."

The Westminster-based group has room for about 150 more people willing to SHARE.

"The more people who buy food, the more will be available for others," she said. "It's simple arithmetic. Buying in bulk saves."

The more who buy through SHARE, the better the deal the organization's buyers can negotiate with food distributors, said Carole Rybicki, SHARE coordinator. Each month, SHARE submits 500,000 to 750,000 orders in 27 cities nationwide.

Participants register at local SHARE sites about the first of each month and sign a pledge for their service project.

By pickup day, members have completed their volunteer project and turned in their receipts.

Through its headquarters in Baltimore County, SHARE is actively seeking more host sites in Carroll. Along with St. Joseph and Human Services, First Assembly of God in Westminster also participates.

"We hope to branch out to other churches," said Dottie Lichtfuss of First Assembly. "The program really helps you budget your food dollars."

Peggy Cronyn, director of SHARE Baltimore, said the program "brings food for the soul as well as the body."

Churches, senior centers or "anyplace where people gather" will work well for a program site, said Ms. D'Ambrogi.

"Everyone qualifies to receive the food and we are trying to involve people in the community aspect," she said.

St. Joseph has about 55 people in its program, which is open to anyone willing to participate.

"You don't have to belong to the church or live in South Carroll," said Ms. Raznick.

The food packages are delivered to each site on the fourth Saturday of every month. They include frozen meat, fresh vegetables and fruit, and packaged goods.

All you need is a core group to lead the program and assistants for the monthly distribution," said Ms. Rollins.

"This program is going like gangbusters in other places around the state. It is an important resource to bring to the county."

Ms. Rollins said she would like to see sites in Taneytown, Manchester and Union Bridge.

For more information, call 636-9615.

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