The Joy and Generosity of a Challenging Thanksgiving

From a Wall Street Journal story by James Freeman headlined “One More at the Table”:

In this season of gratitude it’s hard not to be thankful for the people of this great country. This is especially true when observing their joy and generosity in response to a challenging Thanksgiving.

In USA Today Katie Wedell reports:

While consumers are navigating higher prices on essentials like gas and groceries, the nation’s food banks and the food pantries they supply are being hit with a one-two punch of increased demand and rising costs.

At God’s Pantry Food Bank based in Lexington, Kentucky, both the demand for and the cost of their annual Thanksgiving food boxes are up this year.

“This year, we are increasing our distribution by 11% to 6,450 households,” said CEO Michael Halligan. “The cost of the food has gone up 14.5%.”

Readers may wish to make a special effort over the next few days to help those in need. Daysi Calavia-Robertson writes for New Jersey’s Star-Ledger:

Thanksgiving, without a turkey? I’m not trying to ruffle any feathers but it’s true — the signature bird has obtained an obligatory pardon from countless dinner tables as higher food costs have forced cash-strapped families in New Jersey to pivot to more affordable dishes.

A Paterson grandmother tasked with holiday cooking for her family said she’s scratching turkey from her shopping list and substituting it with a less expensive option, Cornish hen or roaster chicken. And in Newark, a mother of two said she and her family can only afford to eat turkey if her niece can secure one as a gift.

Surging prices on Thanksgiving dinner ingredients are creating challenges across the Garden State. Ms. Calavia-Robertson adds:

“Yes, everything is more expensive,” Victoria Oquendo, a grandmother of three who owns a children’s party face-painting business, said matter-of-factly. “But what are we going to do? Are we going to let that steal our joy? No. We’re going to adapt.”

Adapting and hanging on to joy is what people of limited means, what people in underserved communities, what people of color, routinely do in tough times. It’s what they’ve always done.

It’s what I watched my parents and abuelitos do whenever money was tight. We’ll be OK. We have each other. And if we’re down to one bowl of arroz con frijoles, we’ll share it.

“Donde comen dos, comen tres,” which means “where two eat, three eat” — there’s always enough room for one more at the table. And if there isn’t, we’ll make it. That’s “Thanksgiving.” Not a specific meal but the blessing of having someone to share your dinner.

Oquendo knows more about sharing than most. Her home in Paterson has become an unofficial food pantry for area residents facing food insecurity. She keeps Tupperwares full of food at the ready because she knows at any given moment someone can appear at her doorstep looking for something to eat.

Kudos to Ms. Oquendo and to all those helping their neighbors. Even in a growing economy an unexpected burst of inflation can leave people suddenly unable to live within their means. In Indiana’s South Bend Tribune, Ed Semmler reports:

“We’ve been seeing more new people coming here who aren’t familiar with how a food pantry works,” said Marijo Martinec, CEO and executive director of the Food Bank of Northern Indiana. “A surprising number are retired people.”

Others involved in the operation of area food pantries agreed with that assessment.

“An incredible number of people are struggling,” said Sue Zumbrun, director of missions at Clay Church, which also operates a pantry. “We’re seeing more retirees and families that had to combine during the pandemic.”

McKenna Ross reports in the Las Vegas Review-Journal:

Rising food and transportation costs are hitting food banks and pantries in Southern Nevada, as the nonprofits deal with the effects of supply chain disruptions while balancing their unprecedented use in the last 18 months…

“Other than the food that we rescue from grocery stores and restaurants, most of all the food that we get here is trucked in,” Scott said, noting the limited food crops available within the state. “The transportation costs in most cases have certainly doubled, and in some cases, tripled in the cost of delivering food. That’s the biggest material impact.”

Breanna Fuss reports from western New York for Spectrum News:

At the State Tabernacle Church of God on Glenwood Avenue in Buffalo, lunch is being prepped thanks to volunteers with the Coldspring Community Foundation and Penny Beckham.

Ms. Penny, as she’s called, explains this is not your ordinary soup kitchen. In fact, the folks who eat there for lunch on Tuesdays and breakfast on Saturdays were adamant they give it a name.

“They decided to call it The Plate of Love,” Beckham said.

Love is certainly what they serve. But, like any relationship, there are struggles.

“I mean, there is not one thing that is not expensive now,” Beckham said.

Ms. Fuss adds:

“Compared to last year, we are actually down about 180,000 pounds of food,” said Catherine Shick, chief communications officer for FeedMore WNY.

Shick says there is no doubt rising prices at the grocery store have something to do with it… “We know these are trying times, but we do encourage the community to donate when they can,” Shick said. “No donation is too small.”

Stephen Peterson reports for the Sun Chronicle in Massachusetts:

Attleboro area groups and food pantries have found price hikes and supply shortages proving quite the challenge in their quest to provide food and Thanksgiving dinners.

A prime example was the ninth annual Friends of Foxboro Veterans delivery of Thanksgiving dinner meals to local veterans, where organizers at the last minute discovered their supplier couldn’t deliver turkeys and they were forced to hand out gift cards instead to 110 veterans… “The people should be able to buy their turkey,” lead organizer Jim DeVellis said… “Our good friends came together and made up the difference,” DeVellis said. “We live in a great town that understands community and what the veterans have done for us and we rolled with it.”

…Also in Foxboro, the annual Turkey Brigade was in full force this weekend, with volunteers Saturday compiling 2,000 Thanksgiving dinner baskets and Sunday delivering them to area homes… The Moose Lodge in Attleboro expects to again serve over 100 people…

“Costs have definitely gone up, it basically doubled,” said Danielle Saccone, one of the volunteer cooks and organizers.

“We had some fundraisers, gotten donations from people. They were very generous. I think everyone realizes costs have gone up and were willing to help out.”

What is there to express but gratitude for those reaching out to help their neighbors?

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