Hagerstown food bank's Brown Bag program growing

Requests for donated food up 23 percent this year

Requests for donated food up 23 percent this year

June 16, 2008|By THAISI H. VELASQUEZ

HAGERSTOWN - Margaret and Bill Kellers live on a combined income of approximately $7,000 per year.

Instead of focusing on high gas prices and rising food costs, they count their blessings, Margaret Kellers said. Those blessings include the "goodies" such as cereal, rice and canned vegetables they receive monthly through Food Resources Inc.'s Brown Bag program.

Food Resources is a local food bank warehouse that provides food and other donated items at a small cost to nonprofit agencies. It also provides groceries to registered individuals like Margaret and Bill Kellers.

"Just knowing that we've got something here in the house that we can eat and enjoy is just a real treat," said Margaret Kellers, 60. "We're very grateful."


Food Resources has documented an increase in the number of Brown Bag households served per month, as well as the average number of seniors/disabled households it serves.

According to Executive Director Ruth Anne Callaham, Food Resources has served 240 seniors/disabled households per month this year through its various programs, up from last year's average of 187 households.

"We have had a 23 percent increase in requests for our programs," Callaham said.

Food bank warehouse personnel have noticed another trend, as well.

Food Resources has seen an increase in the number of families with annual incomes well above the poverty line who are seeking assistance.

"When we look at the demographics of our program, people are more toward the upper level than the lower level of our income bracket," said Callaham.

The poverty level for a single person is $10,400, according to 2008 poverty guidelines. The guidelines list $21,200 as the poverty level for a family of four and $35,600 for a family of eight.

Beth Stouffer, who has volunteered for 36 years with the Community Food Bank at St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Hagerstown, recently assisted a father and his young son who came in asking for help. Stouffer said the father did not appear to be someone in need of assistance, but the man said he was desperate.

After the donations were placed on the table, Stouffer said the boy rushed to put every food item into a plastic bag.

"That made me wonder, because normally a child would get excited like that for a toy, not food," Stouffer said.

More information about the programs offered by Food Resources Inc. may be obtained by calling 301-733-4002 or by going to

Maryland Food Bank Chief Executive Officer Deborah Flateman has heard the stories. 

Now in its 28th year of operation, the Maryland Food Bank assists those in need by collecting excess and donated products, and then dispersing them to local charitable providers like Food Resources.

"People who a year ago were making charitable contributions to our shelf are now coming in for help," Flateman said.

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