When congressmen tour their districts, their stated purpose is to listen to their constituents. It is unfortunate then that last week when Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett visited Carroll Food Sunday in Wesminster, he didn't hear all that Tom Canon, manager of the food bank, was telling him.
Since its inception, Carroll Food Sunday has been staffed and financed through private donations. The organization has done an admirable job of helping to meet the needs of thousands of hungry people in Carroll County. But past success does not guarantee a secure future, as Mr. Canon pointed out to the congressman.
Mr. Bartlett believes that private philanthropy by definition is more effective than government relief. To achieve that end, Mr. Bartlett has favored cutting government nutrition programs from food stamps to school lunches. He believes soup kitchens, food pantries, churches and service organizations should feed hungry people.
The problem, Mr. Canon pointed out, is that even well-respected organizations such as Carroll Food Sunday lead hand-to-mouth existences. Throwing more people off government programs may overwhelm private groups that are already stretched to the limit.
The current condition of Carroll Food Sunday is a good illustration. Theoretically, when the economy improves, food banks are supposed to serve fewer people and receive more donations. But despite the current economic recovery, Mr. Canon said he has seen only a slight drop in the number of people showing up for food. Even more troubling is the precipitous decline -- 42 percent -- in cash contributions in the first quarter of 1995.
Only half of the canned goods collected in food drives is highly nutritious. People use these drives to clear their cupboards of old cake mixes, pumpkin pie filling and other odds and ends. To provide a well-balanced supply, food banks need to purchase meat, milk vouchers, bread and other food.
Private organizations already face a precarious future, as Mr. Canon pointed out to Mr. Bartlett. The congressman's ideological-driven agenda to get the government out of relief programs is guaranteed to make things tougher on charities such as Carroll Food Sunday. Had Mr. Bartlett listened during his tour, he might have learned something.