Carroll County Food Sunday Chairman Ed Leister said he thinks the recession has hit Carroll County a little later than other parts of the country.
In January and February of 2012, served an average of 440 families per week in . That includes 96 new families seeking food help.
Board Secretary Dottie Stottlemyer said that today Food Sunday has $86,770 less in the bank than at the same time in 2011.
Stottlemyer reports that Food Sunday spends about 93 cents of every dollar on food.
"We were in the red $30,000 when I went into my board meeting in February," Leister said. "The reserves are going to run out. We can't keep doing that."
Carroll County Food Sunday was established in 1982.
Families can get food for healthy, balanced meals from Food Sunday once a week with the amount determined by family size. Volunteers package the food.
The only requirement to get food, Leister said, is Carroll County residency, meaning no proof of income is needed, though Social Security numbers are collected to verify the number of family members.
He said that many of those who receive services from Food Sunday are elderly men and women trying to survive on a small Social Security check. He said there are also a lot of single parents and even two-parent families in which one or both parents have lost their jobs.
"These people need our help and I want to help them," Leister said. "I've never wanted for enough to eat. My kids have never wanted for enough to eat. It breaks my heart to hear a mother say she eats one meal a day so her kids can eat three."
Carroll County government provides the building space for Food Sunday at no cost. Leister said other support comes primarily from grants and local fundraising efforts.
According to Stottlemyer, Food Sunday spends approximately $130,000 a year to buy food from the Maryland Food Bank to supplement donations. Other 2011 food costs included $28,164 on the Veggie Voucher Program (in which residents receive vouchers to buy fresh produce at the farmer's market), $82,764 on milk vouchers and $23,164 on eggs (bought locally from Sauder's in Hampstead).
But because of high food costs and increasing needs, Leister said the group has to stop offering "extras" like peanut butter, tuna and beef stew. Also, milk vouchers will only be offered every other week.
Carroll County Food Sunday is the largest buyer of food from the Maryland Food Bank, according to Leister.
There are other food banks in Carroll County, in churches, schools and other organizations but none supplying the volume of food that Food Sunday provides. In fact, Food Sunday supplies food to several of the smaller food banks in the county.
Leister said that the organization could not do what it does without the support of volunteers. In the first two months of 2012, Leister said, volunteers gave about 1,450 hours of time at the three Food Sunday locations in Westminster, Eldersburg and Taneytown. Food Sunday has one paid part-time employee.
"This is the most generous county you will find," Leister said. "People do donate--money, food, time. This is a very giving community, I've never seen anything like it. We couldn't do what we do without volunteers and generous donations."
Leister said people can help by continuing to donate. He said that Food Sunday is going to have to do a major fall fundraiser, which it has never done before.
"It's just become a little overwhelming lately," Leister siad. "We don't want to turn anyone away. If they're hungry we need to feed them."