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Tomorrow I participate in my first 5k at the Fresno Turkey Trot in Woodward Park. I signed up because I’d thought about using the deadline of a 5k to urge me toward some of my health and fitness goals. I chose this one, though, because it benefits a cause close to my my experience: The Central California Food Bank. I signed up and made an extra donation back in August.
Not dismissing the cultural and historical implications of the Thanksgiving holiday, I do feel that its modern form is about celebrating the abundance we find ourselves with each year. Today, and every day, I’m thankful for the abundance of inexpensive and accessible food in my life. Not everyone has it – even here in the land of milk and honey. The San Joaquin Valley is hit particularly hard with food insecurity, ironic considering we produce so much of the world’s food here.
Some of you may not know, but for a time while I took full-time care of my mother and her medical needs, we utilized the USDA commodities handouts at the local Mennonite food pantry. Beans and rice and frozen vegetables and inexpensive cuts of meat – simple, basic foods. That food typically got us through the end of the month as her medical expenses rose staggeringly and our income was precarious. So now that I can afford to go to Trader Joe’s on the regular and don’t have to worry so much about food accessibility, I’m so grateful.
Consider making a donation to a food pantry over the weekend. Goods are great, but the organizations can make your dollar stretch a little further. And if you have the time and are looking for a way to serve those in need, volunteering throughout the year is always welcome. There are both secular and faith-based options for giving and volunteering. Here are a few of my suggestions to make it a little easier for you to poke around for a good fit.
SPOTLIGHT on STUDENT PANTRIES:
One of the demographics often overlooked regarding food insecurity is students. Fresno State, FCC and College of the Sequoias in Visalia serve a disproportionately large number of very poor students who typically only receive daily meals on campus. During the weekends, breaks, and holidays, they suffer. Please consider supporting their food pantries, especially if you are a fellow student.
Fresno/Visalia Area Non-Affiliated Food Pantries:
California Organizations for Hunger Relief:
National Organizations for Hunger Relief:
The nation’s largest charitable hunger-relief organization with a network of more than 200 regional member food banks and food rescue programs.
Represents and supports Meals on Wheels programs through training, professional development, publications, grants and more.
Advocates against hunger and poverty by working with the culinary industry to organize events, host dinners, and teach cooking and nutrition classes.
Faith-Based Organizations or Pantries:
Faith organizations have traditionally been on the front lines of hunger relief for centuries. It was the Mennonite community that assisted my mother and I and it was a Mennonite community pantry for whom my theater production of The Amish Project raised funds. I believe that secular organizations and government need to be the driving force for solving this problem, but I also believe that it can be more effectively managed by partnering with faith-based organizations.
Bread for the World is a collective Christian voice urging our nation’s decision makers to end hunger at home and abroad. By changing policies, programs, and conditions that allow hunger and poverty to persist, we provide help and opportunity at home and far beyond where we live.
Look up local food pantries with your church, temple, mosque or synagogue. If they don’t have one, they can often direct you to an organization associated with them who run pantries or hunger relief programs. My experience with the following Fresno congregations has been largely positive. If you don’t have a home congregation of your own and you’re inclined toward faith-based organizations, consider supporting one of these.
Have other suggestions for local donations and help?
Please leave a note in the comments here or on my social posts if you have another organization or food pantry you’d like to recommend for those in need, donations, or volunteers. So many people in your life may be in need without your even knowing it. I was lucky that there was an open-to-the-public food pantry just a few blocks from my house and that a Mennonite neighbor took the opportunity to inform me of it.
I wish you all a very fruitful Thanksgiving and a happy holiday season!