By Dave McMinn
Welcome to the heart of “food season.” As the last of the Halloween candy disappears and the ramp-up to Thanksgiving continues, our activities become centered around food. Between Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving leftovers, holiday parties, and Christmas dinners, this is the most delicious time of the year – as it should be. But as we debate whether turkeys should be roasted or deep-fried, or if pumpkin pie should be served hot or cold, or how much whipped cream is too much (trick question – impossible), we collectively have an opportunity to help neighbors in our community who are forced to get by with a little less.
One of the most basic acts of humanity we can perform is helping those who are hungry. According to St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance, nearly 30 percent of our neighbors here in Arizona are part of the working poor. This means they get up and go to work like everyone else, but their wages barely cover housing and other basic necessities. Grocery shopping often means purchasing the cheapest groceries possible, or even expired food. Mealtime, which can be irregular, is reduced to eating not for enjoyment, not for celebration, but simply to survive. And for young children – who are virtually powerless to affect and improve their situation – the lack of nutritious food can lead to health and developmental issues, as well as what’s known as food insecurity.
The reasons behind why a person or family finds themselves among the working poor can vary. It’s not always about “lifestyle choices.” Imagine the financial crisis that accompanies the sudden death of one of the parents, the sudden loss of a job, or an extended illness. In situations like these, Arizonans can turn to food banks for help. And most people would agree that the safety net of a food bank is a good thing for the community. Arizona food banks do an amazing service by providing nutritious food to people in need. But here’s the other half of the equation: Those food banks need to be filled. And that’s where we come in. All of us. The infrastructure is already in place. The warehouses, distribution centers, and volunteer staffs are up and running. Now, let’s do our part by stocking the shelves of our local food banks.
It’s a common pitch by charities to compare everyday luxuries to someone else’s necessities. But it doesn’t have to be about giving up your Starbucks for a week so you can help the poor. And it’s not about scaling down your Thanksgiving meal and giving the money to charity. But could you throw a couple of extra cans of food into your shopping cart and donate them? Could you go online and give 5 bucks to a local food bank? There are 55,000 of us living in the Norterra/Deer Valley area. Imagine what we might accomplish as a community if each of us donated just a little to keep our food banks properly supplied.
The act of purchasing and delivering food to the food banks is satisfying on a visceral level. You’re investing time and effort to purchase and deliver a tangible donation. Some people like to make it a family affair, allowing their kids to select the food and ride along for the drop-off, which teaches generosity and compassion. For others, a quick & easy online donation is preferred. Point, click, donate. And that’s perfectly fine. In fact, organizations like St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance can turn $1 into 7 meals! And most food banks have programs in place that allow you to receive a tax benefit for your contributions.
Do you know what’s hard to do? Solving world hunger. Do you know what’s easy to do? Making sure one little girl eats breakfast tomorrow, or that one family has food for a Sunday dinner. This article isn’t intended to be a guilt piece, but rather an invitation to positively affect our community with an act of generosity. Whether you call it holiday cheer, the spirit of the season, or goodwill toward all men, consider extending a small kindness this month to someone you’ll never meet. You won’t regret it…and they’ll appreciate it. As the saying goes – Don’t almost give.