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Catonsville Emergency Assistance in need of donations as school year starts up

The pantry is running low.

As soon as a local business, church or family donates food to Catonsville Emergency Assistance (CEA), a client comes in for supplies, said Bonnie Harry, executive director of the nonprofit organization.

“Everything that came in today has gone out,” Harry said. “What do you do? Tomorrow you hope that you have a repeat of today, because that’s how critical it is.”

The summer months are traditionally slow for donations, in part because school is out and folks are away on vacation, she said. But as the school year starts up, the demand for supplemental food for families in need goes up, because of the slow summer months.

Harry said Aug. 27 was a “phenomenal” day for donations, because about 16 people came in with food or cash to contribute to the nonprofit.

In general, the CEA is always asking for items such as canned beans, canned vegetables and fruit, pasta sauce, pancake mix, pancake syrup, coffee and tea, sugar, rice and pasta side dishes, jam or jelly, peanut butter and granola bars.

A full list of items that CEA is looking for can be found at

To help in soliciting specific foods that are in high demand as area students return to school, CEA is asking for people to donate certain items on certain days of the week.

On “Meaty Monday,” for example, CEA is asking for chicken soups and canned meats. On “Wheat and Grains Wednesday,” the organization is seeking rice, pasta and macaroni and cheese.

Donations are accepted at 25 Bloomsbury Ave., Mondays through Thursdays, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. by appointment.

Harry said that hunger in the Catonsville area is a constant problem, not an issue that folks should pay attention to exclusively around Thanksgiving, Christmas and other holidays.

“We are so appreciative of being able to give extra [during the holidays],” Harry said. “But that doesn’t mean that in January and in September or August that these folks aren’t equally as hungry.”

The school year can provide some respite for needy families. In Baltimore County, students are eligible for free and reduced-priced breakfasts and lunches if their household income falls below certain levels.

In the 2017-2018 school year, nearly 44 percent of Baltimore County Public Schools students were eligible for a free or reduced-price meal, according to data from the school system’s Division of Business Services.

“The nutrition that [students] get in that meal for breakfast and lunch is phenomenal,” Harry said. But, “that still doesn’t negate the fact that the household at home still needs the nutrition and food.”

In addition to bags of food, Catonsville Emergency Assistance provides financial help to households struggling to make rent or pay their electric bills. The nonprofit limits its service area to Catonsville, however.

A full list of the theme days and the specific food items that CEA is requesting can be found on the organization’s Facebook page:

During its inaugural “Christmas in July” solicitation for food and donations, Harry said, the organization brought in about 3,000 pounds of food. She declined to say how much money was raised.

“We think for this year, for our first one, it was absolutely a success,” she said.

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