A group of retirees chuckling as they bag red potatoes in a cavernous Linthicum warehouse may not seem to be a salve for the social ills that inflict this region, but it may be the first dosage.
These senior citizens are pioneers in an effort called SHARE, for Self Help and Resource Exchange. Launched by Catholic Charities and the Knights of Malta, a Catholic service organization, the project intends to be a cohesive force for this region. Through the elemental desire of human beings to save a few bucks on groceries, the project has a greater goal of breaking down prejudices and bringing together people of different races, residences and income levels.
SHARE works like this: The non-profit group, with locations in 22 cities across the United States, buys basics such as meat, produce and a few dry goods at a great discount because it is buying for 400,000 people. A share of the food is trucked into the group's Linthicum warehouse for volunteers to bag and box one frantic week each month. One weekend a month, participating community and religious groups collect food for the members in their area to pick up. Participants don't have to belong to the smaller groups to take part in the food co-op. The price for $30 to $35 worth of food: $13 plus two hours of volunteerism in some community group. The concept has operated in San Diego since 1983 and has spread along the East Coast in recent years from Boston to Tampa, Fla.
If the program takes off here and attracts 14,000 or so people in the next year or two, the venture might turn a profit that would go toward community projects, director Peggy Cronyn says. The program accepts food stamps or cash. But it is not an emergency food program -- although the need for a source of cheap, healthy food certainly exists -- so much as one to nourish Central Maryland's collective soul. For instance, the fledgling group has already arranged for a suburban congregation to share transportation with an inner city church.
Give me fish and I'll eat for a day, the saying goes. Teach me to fish and I'll eat all my life. SHARE (410-636-9615) wants to teach this region to fish.