BALTIMORE – Inside the dingy warehouse of the Maryland Food Bank, shelves that were once crowded with cans of soup, boxes of cereal and other foods are bare.
But Maryland advocates for the poor hope to refill them, this time with healthier versions of the nonperishable foods they use to feed the hungry.
The U.S. Postal Service and five other organizations launched a record statewide food drive Thursday, with hopes of feeding the most needy of Marylanders, officials said. Starting Saturday, residents may leave food near their mailboxes for pickup by a letter carrier.
Their goal is to collect 436,000 pounds of food, one pound for each person living in poverty.
“Everybody thinks of hunger during the holidays,” said Edward G. Novack, food bank chairman. “But our needs don’t change through the year. We are very much in need of food.”
Demand is driven by families leaving welfare, but still relying on food banks, and children on summer break who usually get two daily meals in school, officials said. Still, donations remain low.
“People are being pushed into jobs, minimum-wage jobs,” said Lynn Brantley, Capital Area Food Bank president. Those wages are too low to support a family, she said.
This weeklong food drive is the first where residents statewide can participate. Collections will be distributed to 900 Maryland programs that feed the hungry daily.
Unlike past food drives, this one has a special mission: to feed the hungry and stave off health problems common to urban areas through the collection of low-fat and low-sodium foods.
“We need to be looking at the kinds of foods we are eating,” said Eric Baugh, an official with CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield. “Just because people are low-income doesn’t mean they cannot be healthy.” CareFirst joined the campaign because it was a chance to promote healthy eating. “If people lead healthier lives, it makes that premium go a lot further,” Baugh said. Also participating in the food drive are the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation Inc. and the Maryland Commission for Celebration 2000. Comptroller William Donald Schaefer said the food drive will help many overlooked Maryland residents.
“People think everybody is wealthy,” he said. “Everyone is not doing well. We still have people who need food, clothing and support. There is a continuous drain. A lot of these families don’t have enough.”