I will be the first to admit: I like to indulge around Thanksgiving time. I want to try all the food and beverages seemingly at my disposal. While I do “give thanks” in some way, I feel like I don’t truly appreciate this time of year enough. Sure, I donate some food for a food drive to help someone in need, but is that enough?
As I can sit at my dinner table at Thanksgiving and have a heaping plate of food and a drink poured to the top of the glass, I don’t have to worry about making sure I’m fed (obviously). However, that is not the case for many families, especially in West Virginia. Food insecurity does not magically disappear at this time of year, no matter how many cans of food or packs of Ramen are donated. Furthermore, given that kids may not have school that whole week of Thanksgiving, they lose their guaranteed food source.
In order to make sure Thanksgiving can be a holiday of eating delicious food for everyone, we have to ensure that parents/caretakers and children can eat what we would call the typical Thanksgiving feast. However, no matter how much we try, we never can do it. There are still people who wait in lines at soup kitchens and just hope they can get a bowl of soup for Thanksgiving. Why is that?
Maybe it’s just pure irony. The time to be thankful is taken as selfishness. We keep leftovers to ourselves, rather than donate them. We don’t buy meals or food for the public service places around this time. We just donate cans and loose change. Of course, that is better than nothing. However, it takes a quick look at a map of “food insecurity” to just see how many people deal with this. And we just hope what we give feeds someone, but it is not enough, the problem remains.
So now, we have to think about what we can do. One thing would be to stress donations year round, not just for a month or two out of the year and call that our good karma for the year. Another thing is more of a policy issue: allocating federal/state/local funding etc. to programs and issues like this. This way, they can grow and provide better services to more people. We could do this by speaking our minds, engaging in our communities and hopefully see some change.
In no way am I trying to shame people into splurging on food this particular day. Rather, I want to offer perspective on why we should truly give thanks, every day, and especially this time of year.
Cassie Bambrick is a WVU SPH student and working with Think Kids during this semester on assessing West Virginia’s network of school-based food pantries and hygiene closets.