Food banks called on the brink of bare shelves daily

March 08, 1994|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,Sun Staff Writer

More low-income people are going hungry in the U.S. because the supply of food -- particularly for children -- is not enough to meet the demand, a survey of 22 states on hunger-related issues revealed today.

The report, funded by Kraft General Foods and released by the national hunger relief organization Second Harvest, said that 61,110 people are annually turned away by nearly 3,000 food pantries because of a lack of food.

Food supplies for poor Marylanders also are low, said William G. Ewing, executive director of the Maryland Food Bank Inc., at a news conference called today to announce the Second Harvest report.

The Maryland Food Bank, a non-profit organization that sells and distributes food to local soup kitchens and pantries, is living on the brink of bare cupboards daily, he said.

"It's like a drain on your checking account, we work on a one-day supply," Mr. Ewing said. "Hunger is a symptom of an increasing situation of poverty that is growing in unprecedented ways."

Statewide, more than 821,000 people feel the effects of hunger in a given month, according to a 1992 report by the governor's Task Force on Food and Nutrition. More than 50 percent of those receiving the emergency food assistance in Maryland are children, Mr. Ewing said.

The 201-page Second Harvest report, based on a survey of 5,302 food programs and 8,596 interviews with clients, concluded that there is a dire need for food to feed a growing number of poor people.

The report said that 73 percent of households receiving emergency food assistance earn less than $10,000 annually and that most pantries, soup kitchens and shelters are "living on the edge."

"This has no relationship to the Depression," Mr. Ewing said. "The impact is felt by 14 percent of the country, but is limited to that 14 percent. The Depression cut across all [societal] lines. This is an increasing core group that doesn't change, it only grows. We've also seen a growth of hunger in the suburbs over the past two years."

Second Harvest, which represents a network of 41,587 agencies and 185 food banks, said there is a need for an additional 120.5 million pounds of food -- or a 15 percent increase -- next year to meet the demand.

"We are constantly struggling to stay on top of it," Mr. Ewing said. "At one point, (food) drives represented a surplus for us. Now they've become a necessity."

At the Maryland Food Bank, food drives by the Boy Scouts and the U.S. Post Office have helped to stock the shelves -- temporarily, Mr. Ewing said.

But the postal drive thus far has generated only a bit more than half of what was produced in each of the last two years, he said.

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