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Filling the Pantry


The weather is not the only thing out of kilter these days. Summer is not usually a crisis time for people in Maryland who count on aid from food banks and other feeding programs to keep hunger from the door. But this month, many non-profit food operations around the state are reporting increases in demand of as much as 30 percent.

At the Maryland Food Bank, which supplies church food pantries and other charitable groups, the crisis is especially apparent. Shelves are barren by mid-afternoon, which means the programs supplied by the bank are virtually running on empty.

Bill Ewing, who serves as executive director of the food bank, notes that by the time families turn to churches, they have exhausted any government aid available and are truly desperate. Jobless benefits have run out and, especially toward the end of the month, food stamps are used up and people simply have nowhere else to turn. All those reasons, in addition to generally poor economic conditions, are contributing to the current crunch.

Several groups -- Allstate Insurance and WBAL-TV among them -- have responded to the crisis by initiating food drives to replenish bare cupboards around the state. Canned goods and other non-perishable items are especially needed -- particularly meats, vegetables and soups that can serve as the basis of a meal. Marylanders respond generously when they know the need is there, so there is good reason to expect that the immediate crisis will be solved. However, long-range solutions are more elusive.

Obviously, the question of hunger has no single answer. An improved economy, jobs and job training are important, along with many other efforts to help people become self-sufficient.

No one likes to be dependent on soup kitchens or church pantries for day-to-day needs. And in a country as resourceful as this one, no one should have to be.

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