Hungertown, Md.

November 20, 1993

There are 155 incorporated towns in Maryland, but all but seven of them have fewer residents than an unincorporated place we'll call Hungertown, Md. At the end of every month, 30,000 people line up for food at 900 church pantries, shelters, soup kitchens and drug rehabilitation centers throughout Maryland. That's more people than live in the metropolitan county seats of Howard, Harford and Carroll, or in sizable communities such as Pikesville, College Park, Salisbury and Cumberland.

Actually, Hungertown, Md., reflects the demographics of much of the Free State: It is increasingly suburban and populated more and more by children. Also, like so many growing towns, the infrastructure can't keep pace with the need. Virtually all the folks who run food banks report that they anticipate more people will seek food from them this year than last (and more than half of them don't believe they can meet the demand).

The annual Bags of Plenty food drive is on through Tuesday. Marylanders are being asked to donate non-perishable food or make financial contributions. The campaign, which began last Wednesday, seemed to get off to a little better start than in recent years, but every bit counts.

Many companies are collecting food from employees. People can also drop off donations at Giant Food stores, Signet Bank branches, Mr. Tire shops in Central Maryland and Baltimore City fire stations. Also, at WMAR-TV, 6400 York Road, through 3 p.m. tomorrow and at Stuff-a-Bus, an empty bus being manned by disc jockeys as a drop-off point at the Giant Food at Perring Parkway and Joppa Road. Financial contributions can be sent to: Bags of Plenty, P.O. Box 75164, Baltimore, MD, 21275-5164.

While 30,000 hungry people constitute less than 1 percent of the state's population, in this time of economic uncertainty a good deal more people are in danger of going hungry -- or can empathize with the threat facing these Marylanders.

You need another gauge of poverty? Consider that the Bags of Plenty food will probably last but 10 days. Then, it will be time to find more food. The Maryland Food Bank exhausts about 12 million pounds of food a year -- about the amount of finfish pulled commercially out of Chesapeake Bay annually. Clearly, a hunger that can consume a bay of fish or populate a small city by itself needs your charity.

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