Opinion: For Thanksgiving, let’s help feed those in need

Thanksgiving is around the corner, but not everyone’s traditional holiday meal will be like ours.

Benitosm

Many individuals and families in our community struggle every day to put food on the table, enough so that Thanksgiving for them is just another day trying to figure out where the food is coming from or if there is any at all.

In fact, nationally a shocking 1 in 7 Americans—more than 48 million people (including 15 million children) —rely on the Feeding America network of food banks to consistently put food on the table, a basic need that directly impacts the ability to be productive at work or at school.

In Arizona, nearly 1 in 5 Arizonans and 1 in 7 seniors live in poverty and with daily hunger.

The first step toward alleviating hunger is understanding the seriousness of the issue: hunger affects people from all walks of life across the U.S. Many hard-working Americans who have experienced loss of income face a tough choice between providing food for their families and paying for their utilities.

Over the past year, St. Mary’s Food Bank and United Food Bank have helped thousands of families in need of healthy food.  Every day, the St. Mary’s Food Bank Kids Cafe provides more than 3,000 free, healthy meals in afterschool and summer programs.

For some children, it may be their only meal of the day.

United Food Bank provides more than 51,000 meals a day to community partners in Eastern Maricopa, Gila, Pima, Southern Navajo and Southern Apache counties.

Without consistent access to nutrient-rich food, it’s impossible for individuals and families to thrive,  damaging our community in the long run.

But, there is hope.

Recognizing that food insecurity does not exist in isolation, food banks are moving beyond food service and building partnerships with job training organizations, healthcare workers, financial firms, and others to help the people they serve access resources that enable them to meet vital needs.

Just as important is volunteer support. Be it individual or corporate volunteer networks; volunteerism is a driving force behind the effectiveness of these resources. Working in food distribution and taking part in local Feeding America events are just some examples of how we as a community can take charge in the fight against hunger.

For those who are unable to volunteer, a great option of giving back is through donations to the Give A Meal campaign with Bank of America, which stretches donations with a two-for-one match.

This means for every $1 donated through the end of the year, the Bank of America Charitable Foundation will donate $2 to support Feeding America and its network of food banks.

Partnerships like this have a collective impact, providing food insecure families with basic nutrition needs which is a critical so they can focus on other goals, like getting back on their feet financially.

To donate to Give A Meal, visit www.bankofamerica.com/give.

Once there, enter your zip code and select “Your Local Food Bank” to have your donation go towards St. Mary’s Food Bank or United Food Bank in Mesa.

Even if you can’t donate, posting the Give A Meal link via Twitter or Facebook helps raise awareness about the more than 4 million families struggling with hunger in Arizona.

For Thanksgiving, through the holiday season and beyond, let’s make sure that families in our community don’t have to make painful choices between food and other basic necessities.

Using all of our connections, let’s fight hunger and help our friends and neighbors build a stronger community.

Benito Almanza is Arizona Market President for Bank of America

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