November 25, 2013

Help out area food pantries

This week, thousands of Georgians will join millions across the country to celebrate Thanksgiving, a day of feasting, fun and fellowship.

It is a day unique to North America (Canada observed its Thanksgiving in October), but nevertheless is embraced by our country as part of the fabric of being an American.

But not everyone gets to share in this bounty. There are far too many people in need who don’t have the means to enjoy a meal, let alone a feast for a special occasion.

But there are people and organizations in place to help combat that shortcoming.

Local food pantries are available to help. But they are struggling to meet the demand, which is only expected to increase with the recent cutbacks in the food stamp program. Ditto for our “soup kitchens,” such as Harvest Outreach and Providence Ministries, which for years have been serving up hot meals not just for the holidays, but for every day.

There is an undeniable need.

Area residents always show the depth of their generosity when it comes to helping their neighbors in need. Whether it be the annual United Way campaign or some other community effort, residents often dig deep and give much. Many people volunteer their time to help out at pantries or help serve meals at charities.

You may have noticed boxes set up at stores and other retailers to gather canned and non-perishable food items. Many church groups and school children engage in food drives to stock local food pantries, such as The Salvation Army and the Northwest Georgia Branch of the Chattanooga Area Food Bank, both in Dalton.

While that is all well and good, and gives those collecting the items a sense of accomplishment, there may be an alternative way to feed those in need.

According to the Los Angeles Times, charities that serve the needy can make cash go further than cans. In some cases, for every dollar a donor would have spent to buy cans of food, the charity could draw about $20 worth of food. That works if the food banks serve as nonprofit, wholesale-like clearinghouses for the food industry’s surplus food. So a $10 donation may end up buying as much as $200 worth of food for the charity to distribute.

But usually in local cases, it often is the donations of good-hearted citizens, whether monetary or otherwise, that can stock the shelves.

This year, consider giving to an area food pantry. Our neighbors will put the donations to good use.

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