Food banks welcome new chest freezers

Officials say they'll help serve more needy people

January 25, 2007|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,sun reporter

Since the Maryland Food Bank's founding in 1979, Bill Ewing has known that volunteers running emergency food pantries and soup kitchens across the state needed more space to store frozen food.

But now, the executive director of the Halethorpe-based nonprofit group is hopeful that the problem is solved.

Eighty-four large chest freezers are being delivered to soup kitchens and pantries, emergency shelters and churches this week through a $80,000 grant from the Shoppers Food Warehouse Foundation and the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development. And nearly 200 more of the 19.7-cubic-foot freezers will soon be available to the volunteers feeding the homeless and low-income populations, Ewing said during a ceremony to launch the "Freezing Hunger" program yesterday.

"This is as big a thing as I've seen in the 28 years I've been here," said Ewing, who retires as head of the agency at the end of the month. "Meat is the thing our providers need more than anything, because it's so expensive."

The freezer will mean that the Knox Presbyterian Church Soup Kitchen can finally get rid of the older model -- the one with the worn insulation -- that the volunteers had to weigh down with a box to keep the lid shut, said church member Roy Knight.

At the Good Shepherd Holiness Church's food pantry, volunteer Monique Lee estimated that the freezer will allow the church to serve 40 percent more people who need groceries and prepared meals. Currently, the ministry provides food for about 125 people each week, she said.

And at the Sharp Street Memorial United Methodist Church across from McCulloh Homes, volunteer Norma Jean Burton said the freezer will relieve worries that the soup kitchen will run out of food when there are still hungry people waiting.

"It takes a lot of chicken to feed 200 people," Burton said. "Come to my soup kitchen; you'll see what this freezer means."

At the beginning of each month, Burton said, the soup kitchen serves about 150 to 250 people. At the end of month, it regularly serves up to 500, she said.

"We just keep pulling out food," said Burton. "Our problem is having enough food for so many people."

The Maryland Food Bank, based in an 87,000 square-foot warehouse in Halethorpe with an additional warehouse in Salisbury, gathers excess and donated grocery products and distributes more than 12 million pounds of food annually to 1,000 charitable food providers.

Officials with the food bank estimate that the new freezers will increase distribution by about 10 percent, meaning that 1.2 million more pounds of food will reach hungry Marylanders.

Ewing, who couldn't resist interjecting some silliness into the yesterday's event, jumped out of one of the new freezers dressed as a chicken to display the capacity of the equipment.

"Every now and then, we have to celebrate," he said.

laura.barnhardt@baltsun.com

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