BALTIMORE – A broad smile ran across the hollow cheeks of Edythe Gregory as she stared into the well-stocked emergency food cabinet at Perkins Square Baptist Church.
“Just look at the those cans of salmon…the corned beef…the stringed beans,” said Gregory, the 70-year-old food pantry coordinator for the church, while her eyes ran across five shelves piled up with canned food.
“I love this time of the year,” she said. “I love Thanksgiving.”
Gregory is just one of the many food pantry coordinators in Maryland for whom the holidays have brought a smile. With generous contributions from “season-spirited” citizens, the sometimes-starved emergency food cabinets have been replenished in recent weeks.
“This Thanksgiving, like it has in the past, has had generous (food) donations pouring in,” said Rashida Raheim, director of emergency food programs at the Center for Poverty Solutions in Baltimore.
“We do receive a few individual contributions right through the year, ” said Raheim, “but while that helps many food pantries…they have to be very selective and careful when using the limited stock. During Thanksgiving, we can not only feed more people, but also stock up our storage space.”
For the food pantry at the Wildwood Parkway United Methodist Church, it’s the time of the year when more passes for free meals and “more money for food” have started rolling in.
“Every Thanksgiving we get 15 to 20 free passes for feasts organized by organizations as well as money for food from certain companies,” said Carolyn Carey, a coordinator at the church’s food pantry. “And this year is no exception.
“Just today I received another 15 passes for a sponsored lunch next week. These passes really help the hungry,” Carey said.
Raheim also credits the role played by corporate organizations in Maryland in addressing the problem and attributes the “comfortable position” of food pantries this year to initiatives by those organizations.
“Earlier on, it was more of individual donations,” Raheim said. While individual contributions have picked up during this season, it’s the corporate groups that have “really stepped in and made some huge donations,” she said.
One such organization was the Maryland chapter of Association of Legal Administrators, a group of 40 law firms around the state. The association launched its second annual canned food drive this year, urging employees to bring canned food to their firms a month before Thanksgiving.
“We were able to collect a truck full of canned food,” said Dianna Boucher, a member of the association. “We are really thrilled. A perfect way, we thought, to bring in the Thanksgiving season.”
Gregory agrees, but she wishes the spirit extended year-round.
“The people have really been generous this Thanksgiving,” she said.
“But if we have other people, too, showing similar enthusiasm right through the year, many of the people won’t have to wait until Thanksgiving to fill their stomachs,” Gregory said.