Md. Food Bank reports boost in donations

2003 holiday drive is one of best in several years

December 31, 2003|By Kate Shatzkin | Kate Shatzkin,SUN STAFF

After several disappointing years, the Maryland Food Bank reported a hefty boost in donations of canned and nonperishable goods during its 2003 holiday drive season - although officials said the increase will be used up quickly by people who need it.

A "Stuff-a-Bus" drive conducted last month took in 85,591 pounds of food for the bank, which serves 900 soup kitchens and food pantries around the state. That take was 50 percent greater than the 56,990 pounds collected last year.

The Ravens Family Food & Funds Drive brought in 15,604 pounds, compared with 13,158 last year and 4,179 the year before that.

The Kids Helping Kids campaign, which encourages competition among local schools to raise the most food, brought in 430,000 pounds this year, compared with 346,000 pounds last year.

William G. Ewing, executive director of the food bank, said the increases may reflect an improving economy - and donors' recognition that bad times have meant a need for more food.

"I think there is an awareness on the part of the public that hunger is an issue, and we gave them some things to do about it," Ewing said.

But local food providers say demand is still on the rise, meaning the current abundance will last only so long.

A food bank survey found that 78 percent of the bank's agencies had a surge in demand as of last spring. Several providers said yesterday that even more people are coming through their doors.

The Rev. Edward G. Robinson, president of Agape House, a Southwest Baltimore pantry, said this holiday season saw more customers than any period in the pantry's 20-year history.

The pantry gave out 321 bags of groceries over Thanksgiving, compared with 200 last year. At Christmas, it distributed 270 bags, compared with 140 last year - a number that Robinson, at the time, considered high.

Robinson said much of the increased demand this year has come from senior citizens. "I don't know what's going to happen next year," he said.

At Manna House in Charles Village, 16 percent more breakfasts were served in October and November this year than during the same period last year.

"We've seen a dramatic increase in the last three or four months," said Esther Reaves, Manna's executive director.

Food bank officials estimated that the extra pounds of food they collected during holiday drives will be used up soon.

"Just in talking to agencies, what you get is that [demand] is worse or about the same," Ewing said. "I think what we're talking about is a mass of people that are there no matter what the economy is doing."

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