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Food bank sees 'scary' increase in need for aid

February 12, 1998|By TERRY TALBERT

Food bank sees 'scary' increase in need for aid

The number of hungry Washington County families seeking emergency help from local food banks increased by 25.9 percent in the first six months of this fiscal year compared to last, according to Food Resources Inc. Executive Director Brad Sell.

"It's scary, because the economy's booming," said Sell. "Most feel the increase is because of changes in the welfare law. People aren't getting food stamps. If they find jobs, it's usually minimum wage. It's the working poor we're talking about."

Food Resources, at 930 Eldridge Drive in Hagerstown, is a nonprofit food warehouse that distributes groceries to community food pantries in Washington County.

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The warehouse serves 10 agencies, Sell said.

From July through December 1997, the warehouse distributed 70,000 more pounds of food than during the same period in 1996, Sell said.

Food Resources gets 35 percent to 40 percent of its supplies from the Maryland Food Bank. The rest comes from local donations and from major corporations such as General Mills that give what would otherwise go to waste.

Local donations were steady over the past year, but those from manufacturers fell, and that trend is expected to continue, Sell said.

"Now we are lucky enough to be able to meet the demand on our agencies," Sell said. "The fear is that at some point down the road, donations from the larger manufacturers will be fewer."

When the next round of welfare cuts hit, the need will grow again, Sell said.

"The trends are for increasing demands. I would expect that trend to continue for some time. Heaven forbid we should go into a recession," he said.

Sell said most local emergency food providers affiliated with Food Resources saw more hungry come to their doors from July through December than in the previous year.

"In the south county - in the Boonsboro area - the number of families served was up by 46.5 percent," Sell said. "At the Williamsport Food Bank, it was up by 23.3 percent."

A 1997 Maryland Food Committee survey of 20 emergency food providers in Western Maryland showed that 71 percent reported an increase in the number of people who came to them for help in October 1997 over the previous year.

The survey showed that 74 percent said they saw more families with children last year than in previous years, and almost half the users of food pantries and soup kitchens in the area in 1997 were families with children.

In Western Maryland almost half of all those who went to emergency food providers for help in 1997 had jobs.

The Western Maryland survey covered Allegany, Frederick, Garrett and Washington counties.

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