In rough times, surplus food helps make ends meet Recipients hold little optimism


Phyllis Hagan has a few words for President Bush.

"Take care of the people at home first, not those overseas," said Mrs. Hagan, who was one of about 1,000 people who lined up for surplus food yesterday at the Baltimore County government building in Dundalk.

Mrs. Hagan, who is unemployed and whose husband lost his security guard job two years ago after being injured in an accident, also had dire words for people lucky enough to be employed. "Nothing is secure these days," she said.

The line of people awaiting surplus food began forming about 7:45 a.m., although the doors did not open until 8:30 a.m. By 9 a.m., the line was more than a block long.

The county gives out surplus bags of food every three months at different locations. The food, which includes beans, butter, flour, raisins, applesauce and rice, comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture through the state Department of Human Resources.

Local governments use federal income-eligibility guidelines to determine who qualifies for the food. For example, a family of four may earn a maximum of $19,050 annually or $367 weekly before taxes.

Yesterday's line included first-timers, people who had received surplus food before and others picking up groceries for infirm relatives.

All said the free bag of food would help them survive in tough economic times. Some had little hope things would improve soon.

Donna Bender, a first-timer in the food line, works part-time as a clerk in a clothing store but doesn't earn enough to make ends meet for herself and her 14-year-old son.

"August was bad. I made $140 for the whole month," said Mrs. Bender, who receives medical assistance and food stamps to supplement her income.

She said the free food would be welcome on her table because she made less money in August than in the previous month, but her food stamp allocation has not yet been adjusted to compensate.

"Nothing is really secure in this system. I know people who have money, and they don't feel secure," she said.

"It's pretty difficult," said Beatrice Commander, a 67-year-old retiree who supports herself with a $699 monthly Social Security check.

Henry A. Cook stood in the line to pick up a bag of groceries for his 27-year-old son, who was paralyzed from the chest down in a motorcycle accident eight years ago.

Karen Sharp worked for two years in the county health department until her job was phased out in June.

She receives unemployment benefits and hopes to find a job. If she doesn't, she said, at least she has something to look forward to. "I have a fiancee. I'm getting married, and he has a job," she said.

Jeffrey N. Perlow, a coordinator for the county's Department of Community Development, blamed the long food line on the sluggish economy.

"More and more people need these programs when we are going through a recession," he said.

The county government will give out the surplus food at nine other sites this week and next week. Frank Welsh, director of the Department of Community Development, said 94,139 pounds of food will be given out during the period.

"We expect to serve about 5,400 homes," about the same as during the June food distribution, Mr. Welsh said.

In Baltimore, surplus food is being distributed at more than 100 locations, including mayor's stations and Urban Services Agency centers, said Al Atkins, the surplus food coordinator for the Urban Services Agency.

Baltimore County distribution sites

Surplus food will be distributed according to ZIP code from 8:30 a.m. until about 1 p.m. unless otherwise noted.


St. Luke's Church

7517 North Point Road


ZIP codes: 21219, 21052


Knights of Columbus Hall

1707 Eastern Blvd.


ZIP code: 21221


Hiss United Methodist Church

8700 Harford Road


ZIP codes: 21013, 21030, 21051, 21057, 21082, 21087, 21093, 21128, 21131, 21156, 21204, 21206, 21212, 21234, 21236, 21239

Sept. 23

Middle River Boys Club

1413 Fuselage Ave.

Middle River-Chase

ZIP codes: 21021, 21027, 21162, 21220, 21237

Sept. 24

Banneker Community Building

Main and Wesley Avenues


ZIP codes: 21043, 21228, 21229

Sept. 25

St. Clement Church

Washington and Second Avenues


ZIP codes: 21225, 21227

Sept. 26

Baltimore County Liberty Family Resource Center

Liberty Road and Brenbrook Drive


ZIP codes: 21104, 21207, 21133, 21215, 21163

Sept. 27

Pleasant Hill United Methodist Church

10911 Reisterstown Road

Owings Mills

ZIP codes: 21020, 21023, 21055, 21071, 21107, 21117, 21136, 21208, 21209

Parkton American Legion Post 256

19520 York Road


10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

ZIP codes: 21019, 21053, 21074, 21105, 21107, 21111, 21152, 21155, 21161, 21120

To receive food, you must have a surplus food identification card, Department of Social Services identification card, food stamp card, Social Security award letter, Maryland Energy Assistance Award letter or Medical Assistance card. Proof of income and current ZIP code is required for people who have not registered for surplus food before.

For information, call the Baltimore County Department of Community Development at 887-5688.

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