For generations, Americans have gathered on a Thursday in November to commemorate the first Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving means different things to different people, but one thing remains the staple for every gathering: food.
Thanksgiving dinners are well-known for leaving people in “turkey comas” after they consume a massive quantity of food. But for millions of Americans, such feasts are the stuff of dreams and movies. The holiday for them is just another day with a hungry belly.
Hunger in America doesn’t look like you’d typically think. These days it revolves mostly around food insecurity. Food insecurity, where a person doesn’t have access to the necessary amount of nutritious food they need to stay healthy, is particularly a problem for children, seniors, minorities and rural communities. According to the USDA, over 13 million children were food insecure in 2015 and almost 6 million seniors in 2014. One in five African American households is food insecure, the same rate as Latino households. Meanwhile 15 percent, or about 2.8 million rural households are food insecure.
Fortunately, organizations like Feeding America work to fight food insecurity in these communities, and not just for Thanksgiving. They work year round to make sure Americans don’t go hungry.
Feeding America is the largest hunger-relief organization in the country, operating 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs. They provide meals and services to more than 46 million people every year, giving away over 4 billion meals. In other words, Feeding American helps one in seven Americans each year.
The organization targets children and seniors, since they are the most vulnerable to hunger. Feeding America is there for children when school is out and reduced or free meals are unavailable; it’s there for senior citizens on fixed incomes who are trying to decide between buying food or getting the life-saving medications they need. They also offer services to help seniors become more food secure and access services that improve their quality of life.
Feeding America works in disaster response, providing emergency food when the worst occurs. Volunteers prepare for the disaster before it strikes, work on the ground during the disaster and remain working with the families and community long after the dramatic event occurs.
Most recently, Feeding America launched Collaborating for Clients, a program to address the root causes of food insecurity by partnering with other organizations.
“Through this initiative, we seek to connect people facing hunger to multi-sector partners that can help them address priority needs related to employment, health and housing and ultimately help them build a pathway to stability,” the website states.
According to feedingamerica.org, $1 helps to feed 11 people. As you plan your Thanksgiving day festivities, perhaps you can take a moment to donate to Feeding America or one of the other amazing organizations working to keep people full and healthy. It’ll make all the difference to someone this holiday season.