Nearly one in six Marylanders did not have enough money to buy food their family needed at times during 2012, according to a report released Thursday by the Food Research and Action Center.
Of those surveyed, 15.9 percent in the Baltimore-Towson area said they did not have cash to get enough food. That's compared to 16.2 percent of respondents in the state. Nationally, the rate was 18.2 percent. Mississippi had the highest food hardship rate of 24.6 percent; North Dakota had the lowest at 10.9 percent.
Jim Weill, president of the action center, called on Congress to address the country's hunger problems, including passing a Farm Bill that increases benefits for food stamps, known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
"Persistent unemployment, stagnant wages, and inadequate public programs are contributing to the nation's high food hardship rate, yet Congress continues to propose cuts that would further fray our nation's nutrition safety net," Weill said in a statement. "Congress needs to fix the problems rather than doubling down on harming the most vulnerable Americans."
The news coincides with the start of the 27th Annual Harvest for the Hungry food campaign. The weeklong food drive runs from Saturday until March 10. Individuals are encouraged to donate nonperishable food.
Letter carriers will collect food left at mailboxes. Donations can also be made at post offices and pre-stuffed bags can be bought at Safeway Stores for $10 to feed a family of four.
"We do this drive now, because hunger takes no holiday. People are hungry all year, and we are seeing the numbers continue to grow," said Larry V. Adam, who started Harvest for the Hungry in 1987. Since then, the drive has collected more than 32 million pounds of food and more than $1.6 million in cash for Maryland food banks.