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Everyone Should Enjoy a Thanksgiving Dinner

November 21, 2006

Thanksgiving dinner is the greatest meal of the year. There’s nothing better than fellowship with family and friends while enjoying an abundant feast.  Unfortunately for many, the holiday represents merely another day without food to eat or the necessary care items. As we enjoy the upcoming holiday season, we must not forget that thousands across our state are going hungry every day, even during the holidays.  


Some may think of hunger as a problem reserved to third world and underdeveloped countries, but it’s a big problem here at home, too. According to the Alabama Food Bank Association, twelve percent of Alabamians receive food stamps, which equates to roughly 79 cents per meal. Plus, thirteen percent of the state population is "food insecure," meaning that they are not assured of being able to obtain a nutritionally adequate diet without assistance.


Hunger is a problem that affects the most vulnerable among us. Out of the 800,000 Alabamians currently living below the poverty level, many are seniors and children. Nearly one-fourth of Alabama’s seniors live below the poverty line, and food requests by seniors have risen nearly ten percent in the last year. Studies show that one out of every four people in line at soup kitchens across the nation is a child.


We cannot continue to allow our fellow Alabamians to go hungry, especially children and the elderly. The holiday season is a time to reflect upon our own blessings, and a time to help those less fortunate. There are ways that we can all fight hunger, but it is important to help where it is needed the most and can be used most effectively.


The Alabama Food Bank Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing food and other household and personal care items to those in need across Alabama. The association is affiliated with America’s Second Harvest, the largest food bank organization in the country. The association is prominent throughout the state with regional offices in Muscle Shoals, Huntsville, Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, Montgomery, Selma, Mobile, Auburn, and Dothan.


Each food bank receives donations from surplus supermarket items, unmarketable food items from food companies, and food from local food drives. The banks also receive a USDA commodity through the Department of Education. The food bank then distributes to churches, shelters, community and senior centers, and food pantries. Last year, the Montgomery Area Food Bank distributed over thirteen million pounds of food to citizens of south central Alabama.


Although food donations are helpful and greatly appreciated, donations alone aren’t enough to feed the needy. People often donate similar items, leaving food banks with a large quantity of some foods, while other food groups are neglected. Monetary donations allow our food banks to purchase food more effectively by allowing the bank to purchases items that are needed most. 


More money ultimately means a bigger bulk of food, as well. For example, each dollar that goes in the food banks’ operations account can be turned into eight pounds of food. $60 can secure a quarter ton of nutritious food.


Another great way to help the hungry is to participate in food drives. Churches, schools, and other civic organizations usually hold annual food drives during the holidays. I urge you to continue giving if you have in the past. If you have never participated, make this year your first and try to make participation in a food drive your new holiday tradition.


While fighting hunger is often thrust to the forefront of our minds during the holiday season, the fight against hunger doesn’t end after the holidays are over. It is important that we continue to help those in need throughout the year as well.


As you enjoy your Thanksgiving feast, remember those less fortunate. By donating just a few cans or a few dollars, we can all help to ensure that every Alabamian has the opportunity to enjoy the greatest meal of the year. And that’s something to be thankful for.