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The Southern Maryland Food Bank in Hughesville was able to open its doors for distribution to area food pantries on Monday. This was after the community responded to news last week that the facility was forced to close temporarily because it had run out of food.

“In a three-day time frame, we received 14,000 pounds of food from all the drives in the community,” said Brenda DiCarlo, food bank director. “That was enough for us to open up our doors, and we fully expect to be open for the next week as well.”

DiCarlo attributed the food bank’s unexpected windfall in donations to the generosity of the members of the surrounding community.

“I thought there was no way we’d be able to open this week, but happily I turned out to be wrong there,” DiCarlo said. “I’m always pleasantly surprised by the outpouring of support we get from the community when we fall into a time of need. That’s one of the great things about Southern Maryland.”

DiCarlo said that on average, the food bank distributes around 15,000 pounds of food every Monday to tri-county food pantries and other organizations. The amount of donations received was “certainly enough” to prepare for this week’s round of distributions, and more donations are slated to come in.

The food bank also received 8,000 pounds of food from the Maryland Food Bank, which served to further alleviate the need for shortage, at least temporarily.

Although DiCarlo said that the food bank is on solid ground for the next few weeks, she will be concerned once more come April 1 if it seems donations are starting to slip.

“We’ve been blessed for now, and I hope that continues, but there’s no way to tell,” DiCarlo said. “People don’t know we need help if it’s not made public knowledge, and I know I need to work on letting people know ahead of time, rather than when it gets to be too bad.”

A variety of Southern Maryland organizations have held food drives to help alleviate the food bank’s need.

Bud Humbert of the Waldorf Lions Club said he heard of the bank’s need for donations while dropping his children off at school on Wednesday.

“When my wife and I went to the Lions Club meeting that night, I brought it up and almost immediately we got something going,” Humbert said. “An email went out later that night, and the donations started rolling in. We made a big donation Thursday, a huge one on Friday, and then again [Monday] morning after a full weekend of collection.”

All in all, Humbert said, the Lions’ Club has donated around 3,000 pounds of food to the food bank, and the drive is not stopping just yet.

“Today especially ... even with a reasonable job ... people just don’t have enough money,” Humbert said. “Seniors especially often have to choose between food and medication and they need that medication, and so they cut back on food. The food bank supplements them. We will continue support until there is no longer a need there.”

DiCarlo said that keeping up with the demand is an ongoing concern for the food bank, particularly as the summer months approach, when demand goes up and donations historically have gone down.

“I’m concerned that we can even attempt to meet the growing need in the area,” DiCarlo said. “We supply 29 food [pantries] in the area, and they rely on us in various capacities. Some rely on us for 50 percent of what they supply, others rely on us 100 percent. It affects them all in different ways, but everyone feels the pinch.”

lrenner@somdnews.com

How to help

Canned and dry foods in boxes or bags like cereal, spaghetti sauce, pasta and macaroni and cheese are needed. Food donations for the Southern Maryland Food Bank can be dropped off at:

Southern Maryland Food Bank at 8395 Old Leonardtown Road in Hughesville, call 301-274-0695.

Southern Maryland Association of Realtors at 8440 Old Leonardtown Road, Suite 211, Hughesville, call 301-870-2323.

Leonard Realty at 22607 Three Notch Road in California, call 301-862-2300.

For more information, contact Brenda DiCarlo by calling the food bank number above or at 202-345-6671.

Food donations are also accepted directly to several food pantries in St. Mary’s County, including Helping Hands in Hollywood, call 301-373-6990; HOPE in Lexington Park on Great Mills Road, call 301-737-2870; and several churches in the county.