Young, old join forces today in war on hunger

March 31, 2001|By Gregory Kane

TODAY A HORDE of Baltimore-area teen-agers plans to invade the neighborhoods of Rodgers Forge, Stoneleigh, Homeland/Govans and Anneslie. But not to worry. They won't be coming to sack and pillage, but to help.

Some area high school students, members of a group called the Students Sharing Coalition Inc., will go door to door and solicit donations of food -- soups, canned meats, macaroni and cheese, tuna fish, peanut butter, fruits, vegetables -- to help replenish the dwindling supplies of the Maryland Food Bank. Last year, the food bank's annual drive brought in 440,000 pounds of food statewide, courtesy of the U.S. Postal Service, which had mailed postcards to Maryland residents to spread word about the campaign. Food bank officials said an outside company paid for that mailing, which advised Marylanders that all they had to do was leave the food by their mailboxes for postal workers to pick up.

"We didn't have that funding this year to mail the postcard," said food bank Executive Director Bill Ewing, "so residents aren't necessarily aware that their mail carriers are ready to pick up their nonperishable grocery donations."

Word had to spread this year by the much less reliable word of mouth and, as of earlier this week, only a fifth of the organization's original goal of 100,000 pounds of food had been donated. But some members of the Students Sharing Coalition read a Sun article written by reporter Kimberly A.C. Wilson and called food bank officials, asking what they could do to help.

First, you should know a little more about the players in this noble venture. The food bank distributed nearly 11 million pounds of food in the fiscal year that ended June 30. The organization provides food to more than 900 soup kitchens, food pantries and homeless shelters. You can contribute by making a cash donation or volunteering. Just call 410-947-0404.

The U.S. Postal Service you already know about: Its employees deliver and pick up your mail and, every March, cooperate with the MFB by picking up food at your homes in a campaign called the Harvest for the Hungry United States Postal Service Food Drive.

The Students Sharing Coalition was founded in 1993. It's a nonprofit organization that brings together students from different cultural, racial and economic backgrounds to tackle social issues. Some of its past and present supporters include the American Legion, the Johns Hopkins University, Allfirst Bank and Giant Food.

The coalition works with 15 high schools and four middle schools. The organization also works with the Baltimore Department of Recreation and Parks, has a partnership with the Johns Hopkins University and the greater Homewood neighborhood and works with several schools there. The coalition works with more than 500 students in any given school year.

Today, 30 or more students from seven schools -- St. Paul's, Bryn Mawr, Loyola, Roland Park Country, Towson High, Boys' Latin and Dumbarton Middle -- plan to make the door-to-door trek soliciting food donations.

Even if the youngsters don't make it to your neighborhood, you can still contribute. If you happen to read this article before your regular postal service worker comes to your door, you can run to the kitchen cabinet and grab whatever nonperishable food items you have available, box them and leave them near your mailbox. This is the last day that postal workers will pick up food from your doorstep. The food bank office is at 241 N. Franklintown Road. I doubt they'll turn away donations.

The Harvest for the Hungry food drive is the brainchild of Larry Adam Jr., senior vice president of investments for Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co. In 1987, he noticed that plenty of folks donated food at Thanksgiving and Christmas, which got him pondering how hungry people fared at other times.

"The people who were hungry at Christmastime and Thanksgiving were hungry the rest of the year," Adam said in an interview yesterday. "I remember hearing the saying `Hunger doesn't take a holiday.' I know the hungry are going to get fed on Thanksgiving and Christmas. I'm more interested in the other 363 days of the year."

So Adam and others started a year-round food drive. The March Harvest for the Hungry U.S. Postal Service drive is part of it. Food raised in each community, Adam stressed, helps people in that community.

"Food raised in Harford County goes to the Harford County food bank," Adam continued. "Food raised in Howard County goes to the Howard County bank, and so forth. The public is very good at giving and very generous."

But, Adam noted, the hungry face the "out of sight, out of mind" problem: folks will think of them at Thanksgiving and Christmas, but not the rest of the year. That's why Adam, the MFB, the Postal Service and now the SSC are trying to find ways to make it easy for a giving and generous public to chip in year-round.

Which is why they're all hoping you have a package of food waiting for your Postal Service worker today.

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