Soup kitchen patronage up 21.2% in a year Stagnating wages among causes, Md. survey says

November 27, 1996|By Ernest F. Imhoff | Ernest F. Imhoff,SUN STAFF

Continuing a trend, emergency food providers served 21.2 percent more people statewide and almost 25 percent more people in Central Maryland last month than they did a year ago, the Maryland Food Committee said yesterday.

In its annual survey, the committee said 204 soup kitchens and food pantries throughout Maryland said they served 159,228 individuals and families during October, up from 131,390 in October 1995.

The providers noted several causes, said Mat Harrington, who, with another committee staffer, Kate Wulff, conducted the survey.

"Stagnating wages was one reason given," Harrington said. "Some people who work continue to use the soup kitchens. In Western Maryland, fully 50 percent of people using soup kitchens work.

"About 38 percent of the nonprofit workers said they had layoffs in the areas of their facilities. Add to that, food stamps haven't kept up with inflation."

Harrington said the general increases continue a trend, adding, "They are similar to those of October 1995 over October 1994. We are setting the stage for the big welfare cuts still coming."

The food providers said the October figures reflected rises throughout the year.

"We're concerned that in the next year, we will see a flood of people who will be cut off from government assistance such as food stamps and turn to pantries already overwhelmed," Harrington said.

In Central Maryland, 98 food providers in the survey said they supplied food for 108,658 individuals and families last month, up from 87,198 a year before.

The survey said that in Central Maryland:

69 percent of food pantries and 71 percent of soup kitchens reported more families with children showing up than in years past and that one of every five customers was older than 60.

19.3 percent of the consumers were employed, continuing "the high rate of hungry people who are employed in some capacity and still find it necessary to receive food assistance."

47.7 percent of the providers reported "experiencing burnout, feeling overwhelmed or feeling that you cannot address the needs in your community." Also, 25.6 percent of pantries had to turn people away.

Pub Date: 11/27/96

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