Post offices in Howard County are extending their annual food drive, hoping to bolster one of the lowest yields since the postal service began its effort to help the needy.
As of early Friday, donations throughout Howard County for the statewide Harvest for the Hungry campaign -- which collects nonperishable food for county and state food banks -- reached about 9,500 pounds since the drive began March 17. That's only a third of what the county usually donates each year.
The campaign was supposed to end yesterday, according to a statewide schedule. But now it will continue in Howard and throughout the state until Friday.
"We're really looking to get some customers to make those last-minute donations," said John Budzynski, customer service manager of the Baltimore post office and coordinator of the statewide campaign. "People just are not thinking about the needy."
Local and state food banks depend on donations to the U.S. Postal Service campaign to help stock the shelves for regular food distributions.
"We look to Howard County as a resource," said William Ewing, executive director of the Maryland Food Bank. "I hope it hasn't all dried up."
Those who wish to donate food to the postal campaign can leave items next to their mailboxes for carriers to pick up through tomorrow. After that, donors can take contributions directly to a post office through Friday.
"All I'm trying to do is help needy people," said Fallston resident Larry Adam Jr., who started the Harvest for the Hungry campaign nine years ago. "Hopefully people's generosity will improve."
The Postal Service joined the campaign six years ago. Last year, its statewide efforts collected 300,000 pounds of donated food. As of early Friday, the statewide total this year was 125,000. Charity leaders were hoping to make some gains over the weekend.
Officials estimate that three-quarters of a pound of food provides one meal for one person. And they say that the food collected in the annual postal drive doesn't last that long.
"You do a food drive just to make it through another month," Mr. Ewing said. "You're always racing to catch up."
Meanwhile, a federally funded food distribution will be held Thursday at the National Guard Armory in Ellicott City.
This distribution is sponsored by the county's food bank and is in addition to the bank's regular distributions from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.
The Community Action Council of Howard County, a private nonprofit organization that runs the food bank, expects 1,200 families and individuals at the federal food giveaway.
The list of available food includes butter, peanut butter, pineapples or pears, green beans, pork, macaroni, rice, sweet potatoes and white potatoes.
In order to receive free food from either the federal or county giveaways, recipients must present an Independence Card issued by the state for food stamp purchases, Medical Assistance (Medicaid) Card or a Maryland Energy Assistance Program Benefit notice.
Without such identification, applicants must show proof that their income does not exceed these guidelines:
* One-person household: $11,455 a year or $955 a month.
* Two-person household: $14,760 a year or $1,230 a month.
* Three-person household: $18,480 a year or $1,540 a month.
* Four-person household: $22,200 a year or $1,850 a month.
* Five-person household: $25,920 a year or $2,160 a month.
* Six-person household: $29,640 a year or $2,470 a month.
* Seven-person household: $33,360 a year or $2,780 a month.
* Eight-person household: $37,080 a year or $3,090 a month.
For each additional family member add $3,720 a year or $310 a month.
For more information about food giveaways or eligibilit requirements, call Delroy Grant 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday at 313-7240.