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When you think of helping those in need, the unhoused might be the first to come to mind. And there is certainly a tremendous amount of need in that community. But what isn’t as widely publicized is the many families who actually do have homes, but don’t always have enough to eat. The USDA reports that 10.5 percent of households faced food insecurity at some point in 2020. Food insecurity is highest in southern and southwest states including Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma, but it exists throughout the country. The USDA also reports that Americans waste about one-fifth of food available to them.
Thanksgiving is a time of abundance and a time when we are meant to be thankful for all that we have. But is making way too much food, some of which winds up in the trash, a form of being thankful or just wasteful? Maybe this year traditions can change a bit, and we can dedicate more of our time and resources to feeding those who don’t have enough rather than over feeding ourselves. Here are ways to provide meals to families in need on Thanksgiving.
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Offer To Deliver Meals Or Supplies
Many organizations like the Salvation Army and even smaller, local non-profits, shelters, food banks and soup kitchens do, in fact, receive large donations from places like restaurants or grocery stores. The trouble is that they don’t always have enough drivers to pick up the supplies, and the donor might not offer to drop them off. Call up a local shelter that provides meals to families in need on Thanksgiving and see if they need volunteer drivers. Many people volunteer on the day of Thanksgiving to pass out food but most organizations need assistance with logistical tasks involved in creating those meals weeks before the big day. Offering up your car could make a big difference.
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Volunteer To Serve Meals At A Shelter
Before or after enjoying your meal at home with your family, do something that will substantially increase your feeling of gratitude when you finally sit around your big table on your warm house: serve the meal at a local shelter or soup kitchen. You could also link up with non-profits putting on meals at spaces like parks or sports fields. Marketplace reports that demand for soup kitchens and similar organizations has reached unprecedented highs during the pandemic. In many cases, only to-go food is offered because there simply aren’t enough volunteers to serve or tables to sit at. Thanksgiving is a time when such operations become even busier and need all hands on deck.
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Collect Supplies For Shelters
Call local organizations that will be putting on a Thanksgiving meal and ask what sorts of supplies they need. Some of the classics will probably be requested like bread rolls, gravy packets, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie filling. But it goes a long way to personally call each place and ask what exactly they’re low on. Make a list, then organize a drive. Put the news out on your social media platforms that you’re asking for the following items, and have anyone who wants to donate reach out to you. They can drop items off at your home, and you can gather everything to take to the non-profits. Or if you have time, you can go door to door and pick up the supplies.
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Organize A Meal Through Your Gym, Church or School
Speak to the staff at your church, gym or child’s school and see if they’d be open to hosting a Thanksgiving meal for families in need. The typical avenues like shelters and soup kitchens are often overrun during this time of year, so creating a new location can provide the others some relief. Starting weeks before Thanksgiving, your gym can have a tip bucket or Venmo account set up where people can send donations for the supplies. You can put out a list of big ticket items you need like folding tables, folding chairs and turkey. And you can enlist volunteers right there from within the community, like fellow gym members if this is done at your gym or fellow parents if it’s done at your kid’s school.
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Bring A Meal To A Family You Know
In some cases, bringing homemade food to a family in need isn’t the best move, as they might be wary of any unpackaged foods. But if there is a family you personally know to whom you’ve donated items (including food) in the past, there is trust there. They would probably be overwhelmed with gratitude if you showed up with trays full of mashed potatoes, turkey, gravy, biscuits, roasted vegetables and pumpkin pie. Perhaps you can just make double of whatever you are making for your own family, and bring the second portion over to a family who would appreciate it. You might want to let them know in advance, so they save themselves the trouble of lining up at a soup kitchen. They get to enjoy this meal in the comfort of their home, the way every family should.
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Bring A Pot Luck To A Tent City
While there are wonderful organizations offering meals during the holidays, not everyone in need knows where those are, has a way to get to them or feels comfortable going. In some cases, such organizations are simply scarce. So if there is an area in your neighborhood with a large homeless population, see if some friends, coworkers, members of your church or members of your gym would want to organize a potluck/buffet-style meal that you’ll set up right there where the unhoused congregate. You’ll bring folding tables, chairs, silverware, plates, large trays of food and food warmers, along with large canisters of hot beverages like coffee or apple cider.
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Gather Funds And Help For Packaged Meals
Start a fundraiser online to gather funds to create packaged meals for the homeless. For those who can’t or won’t go to a soup kitchen or similar venue, they might not have a way to sit down and enjoy a traditional meal. A packaged meal would contain everything they need including silverware, plates, cups, bowls, napkins and possibly a table cloth. It might also include small packets of butter for the bread, along with salt and pepper packets and condiments. Hand wipes to clean up after they’re done will also be useful. Think of everything someone might need to enjoy a meal if they had no access to a kitchen. Then raise funds and gather volunteers who are willing to come over and put these meal kits together.
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Personally Invite A Family To Your Home
If you know a family in need, invite them to a restaurant. Even if donors give them money to use at a restaurant, they might feel insecure about sitting at a restaurant if they believe they don’t fit in. Be their chaperone and most importantly their friend. Walk with them proudly into the restaurant and tell the host you’d like a table for all of you. You can find a restaurant offering a traditional Thanksgiving meal, or you can go to a buffet so the family can eat whatever they feel like. If you are comfortable with it, have the family over to your personal home for Thanksgiving dinner.