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Food bank's drive helps it stock up for 'rough winter' ahead


An article yesterday about a canned-food drive at Reisterstown Road Plaza to benefit the Maryland Food Bank omitted mention of a radio station that organized the drive -- WERQ-FM, known as "92Q." The station had help from Ryder Truck Rental.

The Sun regrets the error.

A canned food drive aiming to replenish the severely depleted shelves of Maryland pantries and food banks got off to a good start this weekend, somewhat to the surprise of organizers.

"It's not the traditional time of year when people are thinking about the hungry," said Bill Ewing, the Maryland Food Bank's executive director. "We're not being inundated, but we're getting a nice response. We need it. It's going to be a rough winter."

About a half-dozen private businesses are participating in the drive. More than 800 pounds of canned food were collected Friday and yesterday by two of them alone, Postman Plus and the Reisterstown Road Plaza.

"Some people who saw our 'Please Help the Hungry' box went out to the grocery store, bought canned food and brought it right back," said Mike Boylan, the sales director of Postman Plus, which was collecting food at 14 stores statewide.

"They've been saying that they heard the cry that food is needed," Mr. Boylan said.

Earlier this week, food bank officials put out a plea for food and reported that their stores were nearly exhausted by a surge in demand for canned goods.

The increased demand is attributed by food center volunteers to the rising numbers of unemployed who have exhausted their jobless benefits. It has come at a time when donations are traditionally slow.

Food bank officials -- who serve 800 food distribution centers in the state, including 400 in Baltimore -- said they were wary of how successful the drive might be in light of the time of year. Usually, drives are undertaken in the winter, around Thanksgiving and Christmas.

"That's the time when we feel people's hearts are more receptive," Mr. Ewing said.

But Mr. Ewing said that when he drove around to some of the locations this weekend, he saw plentiful donations. An exact figure won't be available until later in the week.

"I've never felt the outpouring of affections that I did today. I think people are really coming through," he said.

Tim Watters, a maintenance supervisor at the Reisterstown Road Plaza, said people have left nearly 600 pounds of food in the large boxes in front of and inside the building.

"We've seen a little bit of everything, macaroni, green beans, large 2-gallon cans of baked beans, and a lot of corn. One lady just came in and gave $25," Mr. Watters said.

Food bank officials said a successful drive will be key to supplementing the bank's stores. Originally, no canned food drives had been planned until fall.

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