On Hunger, Giving Thanks, and Paying It Forward This Holiday Season

Thanksgiving is quickly approaching, and while many associate the holiday with turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie and giving thanks, a quick history refresher on the origins of the holiday shows it has roots in caring for one another.

That’s right – after the Pilgrims arrived at the would-be Plymouth in late 1620, cold temperatures, disease and a lack of food made their chances of survival slim. These chances of survival greatly improved when local Native Americans offered their help to the Pilgrims for finding and growing food. In November 1621, roughly a year after their arrival in the new land, the Pilgrims held the First Thanksgiving in celebration of their first successful corn harvest. The Pilgrims gathered around for a three-day feast and invited their Native American allies to join – after all, the Pilgrims could not have made it this far without their help.

With this in mind, it is important to approach Thanksgiving not only with gratitude in mind, but also with an inclination to help others and pay it forward. This may be a food-centric holiday, but hunger is still an issue for many in the U.S. In 2015, the national food hardship rate was 15.8%. For households with children, this rate was even greater. Research shows that 19.2% of households with children had food hardship in 2015, while the rate of food hardship in households without children was five points lower, at 14.2%.

On a more local level, the numbers are even worse. North Carolina ranked 13th in the top 20 states with the worst food hardship rates in 2015, at 17%. For metropolitan statistical area food hardship rates in the 2014-2015 year, the Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia area came in 26th out of 109 for the worst food hardship rates, at 19%. Further, the North Carolina Association of Feeding America Food Banks states that, “1 in 4 children in North Carolina are food insecure, 81% of North Carolina households don’t know where their next meal is coming from, and 36% of food pantries in North Carolina have had to turn people away for lack of food.”

Although many of these households receive SNAP benefits, the benefits are not intended to completely fulfill a family’s food needs. As the program is set up, families using SNAP are typically expected to purchase some food from their own resources. Despite the assistance SNAP offers, many families still struggle to be fully fed by the end of each month. The reasons for this lingering hunger range from under- or unemployment, to the expensive nature of life. In one study on hunger in the U.S., results showed that 69% of families had to choose between food and utilities, 67% between food and transportation, 66% between food and medicine, 57% between food and housing, and 31% between food and education. So while food is important, these families are in situations so desperate, they are having to make extremely difficult decisions.

We have a hunger problem – both at the national and local level. If you are interested in helping families facing this very real issue this holiday season, join us at the Ada Jenkins Center in our Thanksgiving Meal Assistance project. Our goal is to provide a Thanksgiving meal to all families who qualify for assistance. By donating anything from the list below, you can make a difference.

So what do you say? In honor of the origins of the holiday, let’s give thanks, and pay it forward, too. Let’s help make sure everyone has a reason, and the means, to celebrate Thanksgiving this year. Thank you, and happy Thanksgiving!

To learn more about how you can give, contact Janice Hinton.