Annual food drive harvests public's good will

Organizers hope to gather more than 500,000 pounds

March 12, 2004|By Molly Knight | Molly Knight,SUN STAFF

For 17 years, Larry Adam Jr. has been waging war on what he calls an invisible scourge.

"You can't see hunger," said Adam, founder of Harvest for the Hungry, a volunteer organization that donates groceries to area food banks. "You can't see the kids who go to school on empty stomachs, or the single parents who live month to month and can barely put food on the table."

Today, Adam kicks off the state's most ambitious annual food drive - conducted in conjunction with the Maryland Food Bank - at the governor's mansion in Annapolis. Adam and other organizers hope that in its 18th year, the drive will surpass its goal of 500,000 pounds of food.

In past years, the drive has collected more than 600,000 pounds of groceries.

With supporters including Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., first lady Kendel Ehrlich and Comptroller William Donald Schaefer by his side, Adam will urge the public to participate in the weeklong drive to benefit food banks in Maryland, Virginia and Washington.

"There's no reason not to donate," said Adam, senior vice president of investment at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, one of many corporate sponsors of Harvest for the Hungry. "We're making it so easy."

As easy, he said, as dropping a letter in the mailbox.

Until March 20, participants can leave a bag of food by the home mailbox or on the front porch, and letter carriers will pick it up and take it to a local food bank. Bags of food can also be donated at any post office, Safeway store or Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage office in Maryland or Washington.

Last week, Boy Scouts left more than 500,000 Harvest bags on doorknobs in the Baltimore area, but any bag can be used for the drive.

"As far as we're concerned, this is easy as it gets," said Baltimore Postmaster Kelvin Mack. "You put it out, we pick it up, and you're getting food to someone who needs it."

According to Bill Ewing, head of the Maryland Food Bank, he and his volunteers feed more than 45,000 people a week.

"The bottom line is that we've seen an increase in children and working poor who need food support," said Ewing, adding that support from Adam and Harvest for the Hungry has been invaluable. "We do food drives all the time, but Larry injects an extra air of excitement and enthusiasm into this one."

Adam's enthusiasm for helping those in need inspired him to create Harvest for the Hungry in 1987.

Since then, the organization has collected more than 21 million pounds of food.

"The bad news is, that's not enough," Adam said.

When Adam talks about hunger, his face becomes flushed with fervor and his voice booms. He describes what he calls the "vicious cycle" of hunger - children going to school on empty stomachs, performing poorly and growing up to be jobless and starving.

"If you don't have food and shelter, then you have no quality of life," he said.

Adam hopes that, even for a week, the drive will draw attention to the hunger scourge.

"If everyone did just a little, we could do a lot," he said. "I just want people to know that a half a dozen cans will really make a difference."

Food drive

Donations go to food banks in Maryland, Virginia and Washington.

When to donate: Tomorrow through March 20.

How to give: Leave non-perishable foods in bags at home mailbox for pick-up by letter carrier, or drop it off at any Post Office, Safeway store or Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage office in Maryland or Washington.

What to give: Most-needed food items include canned meats, fruits, vegetables, peanut butter, macaroni and cheese, tuna, cereal and pasta.

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