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Food program founder finds 'hunger takes no holiday' for the hungry or for him


Larry V. Adam craves food. Lots of it. Heaping plates full don't even begin to satisfy his appetite. He wants more -- tons more.

As founder and organizer of the statewide Harvest for the Hungry program, the 53-year old resident of Fallston, in Harford County, has made it his goal to feed the hungry, not just on holidays but every day of the year.

"I know it sounds like a cliche, but hunger takes no holiday," Mr. Adam says. "The same people that are hungry at Thanksgiving and Christmas are hungry in July and August."

So, for the past eight years, Mr. Adam has rarely taken a holiday from Harvest for the Hungry. Each day, he spends hours trying to expand a network of volunteers that collects and distributes food to help fight hunger.

Since its inception in 1987, the Harvest for the Hungry program has collected 7.8 million pounds of food. This year, the group's efforts have generated more than 1.3 million pounds.

"Hopefully, we are well on our way to surpass last year's total of 1.8 million pounds," Mr. Adam says. "But it's never enough, as we get bigger, the demand for food also goes up."

Food collected by the Harvest for the Hungry helps stock the shelves of the Maryland Food Bank and food banks in the Baltimore metropolitan area.

The food banks, in turn, distribute food to organizations that feed the hungry.

"Larry Adam brings in better than 50 percent of the food we give out," says the Rev. J. William McNally, founder of the Harford Food Bank, which annually handles more than 400 tons of food.

"He's very energetic, determined, and self-giving of his time," Mr. McNally says of Mr. Adam. "His perseverance is catching, it gets you going to really help the hungry."

But Mr. Adam is quick to point out that any praise needs to be shared with his army of volunteers.

"This is not a 'me' effort; it's a 'we' effort," Mr. Adam explains.

A stockbroker and senior vice president for investment at Dean Witter Reynolds Inc. in Baltimore, Mr. Adam sees himself as a conduit between the "haves and have-nots."

"In my job, I am always working with the haves," Mr. Adam says. "One day it dawned on me . . . what about the people who don't have?"

After organizing a single food drive at his parish, St. Mark's Roman Catholic Church in Fallston, Mr. Adam realized there was a greater need and founded the Harvest for the Hungry.

Supporting his goal of feeding the hungry 365 days a year are many individuals and organizations.

From September through March, nonprofit organizations, schools, businesses and federal agencies collect food for Harvest for the Hungry.

For example, in late October schools throughout the state sponsor food drives through the "Kids Helping Kids" campaign; in November, federal agencies such as the Social Security Administration and the Internal Revenue Service collect food; and free charity concerts throughout the area in December generate donations of nonperishable food.

In January, the Girl Scouts of Central Maryland sponsor food drives and earn Harvest for the Hungry patches; in February, the Catholic Review collects food; and in March the U.S. Postal Service and letter carriers sponsor a door-to-door collection campaign.

Mr. Adam says his wish list for the hungry is answered nine months of the year but that there's little action in June, July or August.

"There's just as much need for food in the summer," says Mr. Adam, who, with his wife, Barbara, has three children. "That's a time when children who normally receive free food in school are at home with not much to eat."

Public schools continue to feed hungry children during the summer through a federally funded food program, but they can't reach all the children who are eligible for free or subsidized breakfast and lunch during the school year, Mr. Adam says.

So, while many families plan their summer vacations, Mr. Adam continues spending hours on the phone drumming up support for the hotter months of the year.

"The EPIC pharmacies will sponsor a 'Harvest for Health' the end of July. Customers will be asked to make donations of health care products," Mr. Adam says. "That's a great help, but we need more organizations to help us through the summer months."

At the Harford Food Bank, there's just enough food to last through mid-July, says Mr. McNally.

Although he is concerned, Mr. McNally is also confident that by the time he runs out, Mr. Adam and his volunteers will have generated more food for his shelves. "He's a great motivator," Mr. McNally says.

Mr. Adam runs his network of volunteers without any administrative costs. There's no budget and no overhead for the strictly a volunteer effort, he says.

But the rewards are plentiful.

"It's a win-win-win situation," Mr. Adam says. "The poor benefit, the groups that help collect food benefit, and the individual volunteer benefits."

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