Strike deprives soup kitchens of Camden Yards leftovers

September 11, 1994|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,Sun Staff Writer

Four city soup kitchens are among those eager to hear the crack of the bat, the roar of the crowd -- and the cry of the hot dog vendor -- return to Camden Yards.

The kitchens received leftover food from the ballpark's concession stands while the Orioles were playing, as volunteers rescued hot dogs, pizzas and other items headed for trash bins. Tons of food and an estimated 100,000 meals have moved through the pipeline during the last three years.

Now, with the baseball season halted by a players' strike, the soup kitchens are scrambling to replace the leftovers. At least one kitchen, the Eutaw Center, has been forced to turn away some hungry people.

"When the baseball season was going on, we could count on the hot dogs coming on a regular basis; there's been a major change," said Robert E. Thomas, director of the Eutaw Center emergency shelter, which houses 30 homeless men at 700 Eutaw St.

The city-funded center serves meals to residents daily from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., and has fed people who sleep in nearby abandoned houses. But lately, it hasn't had enough food for outsiders, Mr. Thomas said.

"It's a struggle," agreed Hazel C. Beard, president of the Second Shiloh Church of Christ's meal kitchen.

The ballpark had been the church's primary spring and summer food source, she said. An Orioles game sometimes provided enough food to last two days at the kitchen, which serves food at 4 N. Broadway on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

As the strike has lingered, the church has used food from its emergency pantry for the needy. The pantry nearly bare, with only a few cans, she said, and she gets by with contributions of meat from Fellner Meats and cans from church members.

Other kitchens affected by the strike are the City Temple of Baltimore and the Bethel Outreach Center.

All four kitchens received leftover food through Project Hunger, a volunteer effort launched three years ago by two men who were University of Baltimore law students.

Steve Chaikin and Marc Iorio realized that tons of ballpark leftovers were being dumped into trash bins after each Orioles home game. They persuaded ARA Services, the food-service contractor at Camden Yards, to allow them to distribute leftovers to shelters and soup kitchens.

Leftovers from an Orioles game can provide 500 to 1,000 meals, Mr. Iorio said.

Mr. Chaikin, who now works with Mr. Iorio in the city's public defenders office, said Project Hunger volunteers still get food from other places, including the Towson Town Center's food court. They also have spent $1,500 from a winter reserve fund created to buy food for the shelters.

WHERE TO CALL

Food donors can call Project Hunger at 528-1637.

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