Food pantries help families during holiday season

by Life Editor Monday Sanderson

Every Thanksgiving, families around the U.S. sit around their tables to enjoy their meal and say what they are thankful for. They may sit around afterward watching football or preparing to go Black Friday shopping. However, it is not this way for everyone.

There are families and individuals who are unable to afford a traditional Thanksgiving meal or any type of food for the holiday.

In 2015, 42.2 million Americans lived in food insecure households, according to feedingamerica.org. Members of a food insecure household are ones who are unable to obtain a sufficient amount of food.

These Americans are unable to get the food they need during the year, and it is no different during the holidays.

The national average for households that exhibit food insecurity is 13.7 percent, according to feedingamerica.org. In Alabama, the average is 17.6 percent.

Some people can receive help from outside sources, such as the Alabama Food Assistance Program. However, there are certain requirements people must meet to qualify.

If a household of four earns more than $31, 590 per year, they are unable to receive help from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Depending on where this family lives and other conditions, they might not be able to afford the food they need.

For the families that cannot get assistance from those means, they can obtain food through the help of food banks and pantries. This is where most people can help, even college students.

There are eight food banks and over 100 food pantries in Alabama. While there are no food banks in Florence, there are four community food pantries, and a food pantry for students at UNA. These places are always in need of monetary or food donations and volunteers.

Students can begin helping close to home this holiday season with donations to UNA’s Feeding the Pride Food Pantry.

“Junk in the Trunk,” a food drive, gave the staff on campus a way to assist students in need, said Stephanie Vess, the temporary coordinator of special events for the Office of Student Engagement in a November 2015 article.

“Some of our students have the opportunity to go home for Thanksgiving, but some do not,” she said. “We want to make sure that all of them have enough food to sustain them through the holidays.”

The food pantry is open to all students, and they accept both food and monetary donations, according to their website.

If students decide to donate to any food bank or pantry, the most important step to take is to get in contact with the organization, according to feedingamerica.org. There are times when these organizations need certain foods, and it is best to ask them what they are lacking.

No matter if someone decides to volunteer, donate food or start a food drive, any help these organizations receive can make a difference in someone’s life.