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On a light day when only 18 of its 400 agencies arrived to draw food from the Food Bank of Western New York, the president of a national food bank network toured the local warehouse where food for the poor is collected, processed, stored and distributed.

Sister Christine Vladimiroff, a Benedictine nun from Erie, Pa., and president of Second Harvest, came to Buffalo Thursday on a multistate tour designed to promote public awareness that widespread hunger remains a national problem even when the nation's economy is strong and unemployment is low.

"I was on the steering committee that founded the Erie Food Bank, and I have been Second Harvest president for six years," she said. "My office is in Chicago."

"Volunteers who guide 184 food banks in 48 states are doing well, but not everybody in the country is doing as well," Sister Vladimiroff said. "There are many hungry people to feed. Everybody is not benefiting equally from the upturn.

"Across the country, more than half of our food banks are seeing increased demand for food supplies. It's up 17 percent in Detroit, 69 percent in Newport News, Va. More and more, working poor families are turning to charities for help, especially at the end of the month.

"Food is about the only disposable income a working poor family has. When a member needs medical care or a car needs repair, the money comes from its food budget. That's when food bank agencies assist."

Sister Vladimiroff was escorted around the warehouse on Holt Street by President Henry Self and Barclay Spence, a food bank associate.

Her trip to Buffalo came in the midst of the annual Summer Harvest drive conducted by The Buffalo News with the aid of area financial institutions. So far, the 15th Summer Harvest drive has raised $20,072.58. All fund gifts go to the food bank; the collection costs are donated.

Gifts may be mailed to Summer Harvest, Box 395, Buffalo, 14226.

Donald I. Dussing Jr., chairman of the Summer Harvest drive, said that besides the public's contributions, area banks are helping to raise drive money.

Each time customers pay for their food supplies with an ATM credit card or cards from Chase Manhattan, Citibank, Fleet, Key, Lockport Savings, M &T, Marine Midland and use the NYCE Network, those companies add to the fund.

Sister Vladimiroff expressed delight at two other aspects of the food bank operation.

"I find the media cooperation with the food bank in Buffalo to be exceptional," she said. "That's not true in all places where there are food banks. And I think that the Kids Cafe started by the food bank is an exciting and useful way to involve the food bank with young people."

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