Demand at food pantries increases in metro area Carroll is only county to report decline

November 24, 1993|By Laura Lippman | Laura Lippman,Staff Writer

Suburban communities are driving the increased demand at soup kitchens and food pantries in the Baltimore metropolitan area, according to a study released yesterday by the Maryland Food Committee.

It was the fourth year in the row for the study -- and the fourth consecutive year that demand went up. Overall, more than 92,000 people sought hot meals or bags of groceries last month, up from almost 79,000 in October 1992. Soup kitchens, which serve hot meals on the premises, reported a 16 percent increase, while pantries, which provide nonperishable items to go, saw a 20 percent jump.

At St. Peter's Lutheran Church, an East Baltimore County pantry that draws from the city and the Essex area, more than 1,100 people asked for help in October -- up from 283 at the same time last year, said program director Sandy Clauser. Two years ago, the program didn't even exist.

"We see people from all walks of life," Ms. Clauser said. "Elderly people. Single people who have lost their jobs."

Anecdotal reports from other providers include Howard County residents who needed assistance because they had lost jobs and were trying to keep up house payments, and Harford County single mothers who couldn't make ends meet because of low-paying jobs.

Almost all providers reported seeing more families, and one in three said they had to turn people away.

Maryland Food Committee Executive Director Linda Eisenberg said the survey provided a snapshot of a deeply troubled economy, reflecting layoffs and business woes on a community basis.

"What this really shows is that hunger is not seasonal, it's not even cyclical any longer, any more than recession is cyclical," she said. "The providers are a pulse for what's going on in their communities."

About 100 soup kitchens and food pantries participated in the study. Every area except Carroll County reported an increase in demand.

* Anne Arundel County's emergency food providers said requests for help were up 40 percent from October 1992 to October 1993. Many of those helped were employed, while others had lost their jobs in layoffs. One Odenton pantry reported turning away 100 people in October.

* In Baltimore City, demand was up only 10 percent overall, although individual kitchens and pantries said they had seen increases of up to 35 percent. There also was a documented ripple effect. When a local shelter could no longer serve breakfast, a nearby soup kitchen saw a sharp increase in its clientele. "Even a 10 percent increase in Baltimore City is a

significant increase because of the number of people already receiving assistance," said Peter Rolph, one of the study's authors.

* Baltimore County saw a 50 percent increase. Providers in the county reported more "regulars" -- people who count on soup kitchens or a monthly visit to a food pantry. Pantry operators are worried about the coming year, when the federal government plans to reduce its surplus commodity distribution.

* Carroll County bucked the trend -- a decrease of 35 percent -- with the daily average of people served dropping from 216 in 1992 to 207 this year. But the numbers are expected to rise again.

* Harford County had a 42 percent increase. One provider told the Maryland Food Committee: "It is going to be nearly impossible for us to handle the load this winter. There is incredible need."

* Howard County, which has three food pantries and 11 soup kitchens, may have another soup kitchen by next year. Demand was up 99 percent -- a reflection of the relatively small numbers of people seeking help in the county. "Nevertheless it is one of the more affluent communities in the state and there is no community that is immune to this," Ms. Eisenberg said.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.