We were looking on Thursday for families whose financial straits had led them for the first time in their lives to accept charity on Thanksgiving. At the Bea Gaddy "Thanks for Giving" dinner at Patterson Park, they weren't difficult to find.
We began the story in Friday's newspaper with Michael Briscoe, a truck driver from New Orleans who had come to Baltimore after Katrina in part for the city's churches; since being laid off by the state in July, he has come to rely on those churches for support.
We met Luminosa Nolasco, who arrived from Mexico 10 years ago, but has been out of work since falling down a flight of stairs last year. And Lorenzo Marino, who says his restaurant job does not pay enough to cover the everyday bills.
Gary Slavinsky says he has been unable to find steady work since he got out of prison in January. A recovering heroin addict, he was serving a sentence for robbery.
"It's definitely the economy," he said of his inability to string together more than a few days of construction work. "I had a heroin habit three years ago, and it was still easier to work."
Catholic Charities and the Salvation Army also reported seeing more first-timers this year.
"Of course there's more need - absolutely," said Peggy Vick, director of volunteer and family services for the Salvation Army in Baltimore. She estimated that one-third of the Marylanders receiving Thanksgiving baskets from the organization's Baltimore Area Command this year were first-timers.
"We've seen an upswing of people who have just recently lost their jobs," Vick said. "They've not only had one person laid off in their family, both people have been laid off in their family, and so they've had a difficult time trying to sustain their household."
The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported last week that more than one in seven American households experienced food insecurity in 2008. That was the highest level since the annual survey was initiated in 1995 and reflected the greatest year-over-year increase.
Of the 17 million food-insecure households, more than a third suffered "very low food security," meaning that the food intake of some household members was reduced and their eating patterns disrupted at times. In raw numbers, the number of households with very low food security increased from 4.7 million in 2007 to 6.7 million in 2008, a gain of more than 40 percent.
Read more at baltimoresun.com