Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday!  It is the one holiday my family stays home and has everyone come to us.  I think of it as my “NO” holiday – no presents to buy or wrap, no church clothes, no rushing, no worrying – just family, friends, food…and wine.  Every year I think about how grateful I am to enjoy this holiday to the fullest – having our family close, healthy, and fortunate enough to put food on the table.  And this year, as every year, I also find myself thinking about those who aren’t as fortunate…and I realize it may not be enough to just be grateful.

Tough economic times mean the organizations that serve to help people in need are also finding themselves in greater need of assistance.  An increased number of people seeking donations has tapped supplies at many food pantries, and decreased donations mean those supplies are not being readily replenished.  The food pantry operator for the St. Vincent DePaul Society in Berlin, Dennis Chang, says he has never seen their pantry in such need – “The shelves are nearly empty and the lines are getting longer” (http://www.myfoxphilly.com/dpp/news/local_news/tough-times-for-local-food-banks).

Kendall Hanna, the executive director of the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, says demand has spiked an overwhelming 50-75% in recent years across the 600 mid-state pantries they support.  This demand is not expected to decline as we continue to see cuts in government support and rising food prices.  Hanna explains one-third of the people who seek assistance from food pantries fall “just above the income eligibility limits for federal and state assistance programs and yet below a sustainable wage”  (http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2011/04/central_pennsylvania_food_bank_3.html).  The central food bank in Susquehanna Township is currently facilitating expansion plans to increase storage space, thereby maximizing their local distribution potential.  Hanna credits volunteer groups with aiding in the success of the food bank and claims the expansion project will improve their experience as well.

I have always thought it was a great idea to donate to local food pantries, knowing those donations would help provide for people in our local community.  Obviously, now more than ever, they are in need of our help.  And, though it’s important to remember food banks and pantries operate throughout the year – not just during the holiday season – wouldn’t now be a great time to start contributing? 

To find donation locations in Monroe County, or opportunities to volunteer, please visit http://poconoinfo.communityos.org/cms/node/24.  Let’s help make this a Happy Thanksgiving for everyone!