Relief agencies in Montgomery County, one of the wealthiest jurisdictions in the country, made 22,606 emergency deliveries of food to the needy in the first six months of this year, more than in all of 1983, according to a new study.
The Montgomery County Food Network, a coalition of volunteers, churches and county officials, said that 6,700 of those food deliveries were meals served at the Shepherd's Table, a soup kitchen in downtown Silver Spring that has prompted sharp protests by some of its neighbors since its opening last winter.
The remaining 15,906 deliveries of food were made by food banks and private agencies.
"The numbers are pretty staggering," said Suzanne Tarica, a Food Network spokeswoman. Tarica said the high number of meals served in Silver Spring was attributable, in part, to the large number of entire families who eat there.
The Food Network plans to release a survey of local food groups on Oct. 16, which the United Nations has designated World Food Day, Tarica added.
In January, the food coalition released data showing that public and private food banks dispensed food or money for food 21,118 times in the county in 1983. In 1980, 7,878 persons received such assistance.
The January report prompted County Executive Charles W. Gilchrist to order the creation of a telephone hot line for those seeking food and three additional government "food depots" to speed deliveries to the poor.
Tarica said the upcoming Food Network report will include an appeal to government officials to intensify efforts to enroll eligible residents for state and federal food assistance.
The food coalition will call on Montgomery school officials to expand the county's program of free and reduced-price breakfasts for eligible youngsters, Tarica said.