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Editorial

Keeping the wolf from one’s door: As many families prepare for a Thanksgiving feast, others face hardship. Here’s how to help. | COMMENTARY

Hunger is often likened to a wolf at the door — ravenous, dangerous and ever-present. Such a foe can be held at bay for a short periods but often not for long. People who woke up today without the benefit of stocked holiday cupboards, who do not have refrigerators brimming with the makings of Thanksgiving dinner from ready-to-roast turkeys with giblet gravy to green bean casserole, who lack even a few dollars in their pocket to buy enough to tide them over know the wolf lies in waiting.

In the field of public health, this is described more exactly as “food insecurity” or the lack of access to a sufficient quantity of affordable nutrition. In Maryland, a state of 6 million people, it is estimated that one out of three people, or 2 million total, qualify as food insecure. What was a longstanding public health problem before the COVID-19 pandemic, worsened markedly during it, remains much the same despite an easing of the viral outbreak. Why? The short answer is that rising prices — what may have been an inconvenience or annoyance to many of us shopping for our holiday meal — can tip families living on the edge as food money doesn’t spread as far or is needed for other essentials.

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Carmen Del Guercio, president and CEO of the Maryland Food Bank, points to his organization’s record purchase of food in recent weeks as evidence of the high demand. Where in 2019, the Maryland Food Bank spent $5.5 million on food over the entire year, the organization has spent $7 million in just the past 90 days. Emergency funding from the federal government over the past two years has helped, but that stockpile is now largely exhausted. Thanksgiving needs will be met, but what about moving forward? How do we work more efficiently? How do we raise funds? How do we re-energize the donated food stream? Those are the questions that nag.

“We’re seeing new people,” Del Guercio says. “They are people who had not used our services before. People who are trying to figure it out.”

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Other community groups report similar trends. Household surveys show that Marylanders have found rising prices either “very” or “moderately” stressful. The percentage of those who reported having trouble meeting household expenses rose from 24% one year ago to 40% in September. A majority told the U.S. Census that they had changed their driving habits because gasoline had become so costly. And nationally, more Americans say they are paying their bills late. Meanwhile, food prices in Central Maryland have risen 11.2%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

And so as families and friends gather for the Thanksgiving holiday this week, it seems a good time to care for those of us who are hungry — if not directly on the fourth Thursday of November then in the days, weeks and months ahead. One way is to contribute to the Maryland Food Bank or its network partners, including pantries and neighborhood soup kitchens. You can volunteer or donate food or even host a food drive, but the easiest way — perhaps the most efficient way — is to donate money and allow the organization to use its buying power and knowledge to provide the greatest bang for the buck and to target resources where they are needed most. More information is online at mdfoodbank.org.

This will be the Maryland Food Bank’s biggest food distribution year ever with a record 50 million pounds. But the work continues. Even now, anti-hunger advocates are looking for ways to help families in need to better connect with services. At pantries, adults are connected to potential job opportunities or transportation to get to jobs. They can access information about childcare, about workforce training, about how to qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. It is all very well to keep the Maryland Food Bank’s shelves in Halethorpe and elsewhere stocked in the face of rising demand, it is even more important to help people find ways to feed themselves in the long-term. That is how you can keep the wolf as far away as possible.

Baltimore Sun editorial writers offer opinions and analysis on news and issues relevant to readers. They operate separately from the newsroom.


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