Sometimes in the busyness of the season, it is easy to turn inward, focusing on meals that have to be prepped, gifts that have to be purchased, and gatherings that have to be organized. Thanksgiving is a very an important holiday in our family and in the history of our country, yet I often feel like it gets the brush-off as it is sandwiched between Halloween and Christmas.
Every year around this time, I do a little shopping for someone else. Sometimes it is toys to donate to our local Toys for Tots or clothing to donate to a local women’s shelter. This year, in the midst of the economic struggles our country continues to face, I decided to purchase as many items as I could to provide a Thanksgiving Meal to a family in need.
Hunger in our country is more of a problem than it appears. In Orange County alone, 456,000 people are at risk for hunger every month with 42% of those people being children. When we look broader, we see that 5 million people in California are at risk for hunger while 38 million people are at risk nationwide (12% of the population). Hunger isn’t just an issue of nutrition. For children who experience hunger, their ability to learn and grow is affected. In the elderly, short and long-term health problems as well as their ability to recover from even minor illnesses and injury can be set back due to hunger. The most surprising fact I learned is how hunger affects young adults like myself. New skills and the ability to secure a new job can be affected simply by inadequate and insufficient nutrition.
This Fall, our local Food Bank has organized a food drive and I participated by donating the meal I purchased from Walmart. Putting together a Thanksgiving Meal Box is easy and through the process, I learned a few things. Here is a list of items I purchased at Walmart:
1. Boxed Stuffing
2. Packet of Gravy
3. Canned Vegetables
4. Canned Cranberry Sauce
5. Canned Pumpkin
6. Pie Crust
7. Bag of Potatoes
8. Bottle of Apple Cider
Only after the fact did I realize that it might have been nice to purchase the items needed to make the stuffing such as chicken broth and a pack of dinner rolls. Since my meal was going to our local food bank, I did not include a gift card or a gift certificate for turkey, but this would have been a wonderful addition so that a family could purchase those items that are not shelf-stable.
Purchase shelf-stable items
Consider adding a grocery gift card and/or a gift certificate for a turkey
Pack items into a box (I used plastic grocery bags and found that some of the items were too heavy for the bags)
Donate your meal at least 1 week before Thanksgiving to ensure it reaches a needy family in time for the holiday
Providing a meal for a needy family in Orange County was an easy thing to do and I honestly felt like I could and should have done more. Fortunately, there are other ways we can support our local food banks.
1. Consider volunteering your time
2. Start your own food program at your local church or community group
3. Make a monetary donation
4. Educate yourself about the issue of hunger in your community.
Hunger isn’t as visible as other needs in our community, so I’m using these small opportunities to teach my children about the importance of giving back and thinking about others in ways that aren’t necessarily obvious.
To find a food bank in your community, visit FeedingAmerica.org.