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Help area food banks feed hungry residents

August 02, 2007

For most families in Washington County, the most serious food shortage might be not having enough buns for all of the hot dogs on the barbecue grill.

But for the 2,000 families served through the county's network of food banks, summer can be a tough time, because donations are traditionally down during this season. We urge the community to help fill the gap.

How urgent is the need?

Beth Stouffer, longtime volunteer coordinator of the food bank at St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Hagerstown's West End, this week issued an appeal for help, saying the shelves there had never been as bare as they are now.

At Food Resources Inc., the United Way agency that distributes bulk food to local food pantries, donations are off by 20 percent, according to Lynn Jackson, the agency's director of operations.

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The organization's main drive - Bags of Plenty - doesn't take place until November, Jackson said, so some additional help now would be most welcome.

The clients of local food banks aren't freeloaders or deadbeats. Jackson confirmed that locally, 75 percent of the families being served have at least one employed adult, 41 percent of those served are children under 18 and nearly 20 percent are senior citizens.

This is the legacy of welfare reform. Although more people are gainfully employed, many have jobs that leave them with too little money to feed a family after rent and other expenses are paid.

Jackson said the items most urgently needed are canned meat and canned fruit.

"Those are mighty hard to come by," he said.

If you would like to provide a donation, send it to Food Resources Inc., 220 McRand Court, Hagerstown MD 21740.

If you would rather donate cash or food to your local food bank, call Food Resources at 301-733-4002 and ask for the nearest location.

The agency's Web site -

www.food resources.org - states that every dollar donated provides up to 10 pounds of food to hungry men, women and children in the community.

If you would like to donate to St. Mark's food bank, send checks to St. Mark's Lutheran Church, 601 Washington Ave., Hagerstown, MD 21740. Please note your check is for the food bank.

Hunger is not just a Washington County phenomenon. The 2006 annual report from America's Second Harvest - The Nation's Food Bank Network - stated that the percentage of U.S. residents seeking help from food banks has grown by 9 percent since 2001.

The report says the number of people served annually is now 25 million, including 9 million children and almost 3 million senior citizens.

As a community, Washington County can well afford to help such people. Most of those in need are working and aren't asking for a gourmet meal, but just some good nutritious food for them and their children. Please help if you can.

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