A dozen Howard County businesses and groups are poised to bolster the shrinking supply of food on the shelves of the county's food bank.

In recent months, the Howard County Food Bank in Ellicott City hasbeen unable to offer the needy the variety of food it has provided in the past, said Ray Gosselin, who oversees the operation of the foodbank and is director of programs at the Community Action Council.

The supply of bread, meats, deli-type goods, fresh vegetables, milk and juices has been affected..

The Columbia Volunteer Corps is organizing to respond to the predicament with a program of food drives sponsored by 12 area businesses beginning in September.

Gosselinsaid he has not had to turn away the needy.

But by January, some types of food had declined in quantity and variety. Gosselin described the change over the past year as a "severe reduction," but had no figures to highlight the decline.

He said the food bank has been able to meet the demands of the needy despite the reduction in contributions because it had been able to stock a reserve of foods. But now that is dwindling, and the need for food is growing.

Between October 1989 and September 1990, the food bank served 757 households, providing 84.1 pounds of food per individual.

But between October 1990 and May 1991, it served 656 households, providing 88.6 pounds of foodper person, Gosselin said.

"In January of last year, we received much more food than in January of this year," said Lorraine Gordan, food bank supervisor.

"People are just not able to give as much as they used to. Giant used to give us 10 cases of eggs. They haven't given us any all year. Every two days we used to get a lot of bread from the stores. Now that the stores are using it so much, they don't even have any left to donate."

For example, the amount of bread collected and distributed by the food bank has dropped dramatically.

Between October 1988 and September 1989, the non-profit organization received 23,000 pounds of bread, but between October 1989 and September 1990, less than half that amount -- 9,400 pounds -- was donated.

And between October 1990 and this past June 1991, only 3,000 pounds of bread were received.

Similarly, the quantity of canned goods and non-perishable items received from the Howard County Boy Scouts dropped from 25,000 pounds in January 1990 to 9,000 pounds in January 1991.

The bank has three sources of food: the Maryland Food Bank in Baltimore, which distributes food to more than 600 organizations and food banks in the state; private donations from households; and donations from retailers such as Giant Foods and Safeway.

Among businesses that signed on to participate in the upcoming food drives are Allstate Insurance, Columbia Freestate Health Plan, Columbia Mall Association, PaineWebber Mortgage Finance, 1st American Bank and Giant Food.

Other agencies are the Girl Scouts of Central Maryland/Howard County, the Columbia Association and the county's elementary schools.

"The goal of the program is to make it a year-round project so thatfood will be coming in on a regular basis from September to August of 1992," said Sandra Fields, coordinator of the Columbia Volunteer Corps.

"Businesses have been receptive. A lot of them have done similar types of things, but this will be on a larger scale."

Each participant will schedule a food drive during one of the remaining months of the year after the program starts in September.

"It (the response from the businesses) is marvelous, particularly because they aredoing it at a time that is not around the holidays," Gosselin said.

"People know we have a food bank here," Gordan said.

"They haveto come in and get a voucher according to household (size) and income. If they are eligible, then they will come in here (the Community Action Council in Columbia), get a voucher and go straight out to the food bank."

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