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Thanksgiving: Only the Beginning

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This time of year, many philanthropic organizations turn their attention to Thanksgiving food drives; efforts custom-designed to provide full and festive holiday feasts to families in need. This year in the face of a global pandemic, rising unemployment rates, and surging food insecurity, many of these same organizations are finding that when it comes to fall food drives, Thanksgiving is only the beginning.

“Combining analyses at the national, state, county, and congressional district levels, we show how the number of people who are food insecure in 2020 could rise to more than 50 million,” reports Feeding America, “including 17 million children.”  

Shannon Hannon Oliviero, External Affairs Officer of Feeding Tampa Bay, provides additional, localized insight on the seeming state of catastrophic hunger that has touched our area.

“Since the pandemic changed all of our lives,” she said, 

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  • “1 in 4 children do not know where their next meal will come from
  • “1 in 6 adults are facing food insecurity
  • “1 million + are food insecure.”

Feeding Tampa Bay, says Oliviero, is currently serving 2 million meals weekly and anticipates serving 85 million meals this year, in areas that include Hernando County. “We have expanded our MEGA Pantry program from 6 to 10 locations in October to more efficiently and conveniently meet the need for those that we serve,” she said. “A concept created in response to the overwhelming need that the pandemic brought on,” Oliviero says public support is required to meet that need. “Feeding Tampa Bay could use support through donations or ‘virtual food drives’ and volunteers by our side year-round,” she said. “We are able to maximize every dollar with 98% going back out into the community and every volunteer hour is used to best serve our 10 county region.”

Beyond Thanksgiving feasts, every meal is precious and very much needed. “Happy to update you as we move into the holidays,” said Oliviero, “but hunger really doesn’t change during the season.” To find out about the various ways you can support Feeding Tampa Bay, visit https://feedingtampabay.org/how-you-can-help.

Andrew Chamberlin, executive director of Jericho Road Ministries in Brooksville, agrees that the need for food donations is ever-present. “It’s never too soon to understand the need,” he said, “and get involved.”

Chamberlin said that thousands of pounds of food donations are given out each week at Jericho Road, and that food donations are accepted each Tuesday at the agency’s food pantry, 1163 Howell Ave. in Brooksville. And in addition to everyday food staples, Chamberlin says that the public is welcome to donate all the fixings of classic Thanksgiving Day meals. “If anyone wants to donate foods for a Thanksgiving meal,” he said. “We will happily accept them.”

At Hernando’s Dawn Center Domestic & Sexual Violence Services, Shannon Sokolowski, MNM, Executive Director, encourages the participation of community volunteers who might care to prepare holiday feasts for shelter residents. “If anyone would like to provide prepared holiday meals we would be most grateful,” said Sokolowski. “Interested donors should call the shelter directly at 352-686-8759 and ask for Barbara or Tiffany.”

Aside from accepting general food donations, St. Vincent de Paul is preparing to provide a happier Thanksgiving for its broad clientele.

“In the month leading up to Thanksgiving day, itself,” said Tim Rumptz, SVDP Food Pantry Director, “we get more conscious of the traditional food items that we might distribute from the Pantry.”

“Of course, the single most popular item is the turkey itself.” 

In order to meet the needs of their public, SVDP has a plan in place.

“What we plan to do is buy several hundred turkeys and distribute them among six or seven (smaller) neighboring outreach groups… the rationale being that they are in a better position (than we are) to know which families in their immediate area need the most help,” said Rumptz. “We have begun to accumulate the less expensive side items that help to make the Thanksgiving dinner a little special.  Most of us remember the taste of cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes and a favorite turkey stuffing; and maybe mashed potatoes and gravy.  Giving one or two of these items to each of those 1,000 families we do see helps them a little to meet the expectations of the day.”

And, as always should be the case, dessert is part of the plan.

“Pumpkin pie?” Rumptz asked regarding possible donations. “A possibility.”

Whether donations take the form of Thanksgiving treats or peanut butter and cereal, SVDP always needs non-perishable foods to replenish the pantries that fill food baskets for the indigent families of the areas—canned goods, peanut butter, packaged cereals, boxed dinners. These can be delivered to the SVDP Food Pantry, 1291 Kass CR, Spring Hill, FL 34606, daily between 9 am and 4 pm.  


Lisa MacNeil
Lisa MacNeil
Lisa MacNeil is a reporter for the Hernando Sun as well as a business technology developer, specializing in website development, content management systems, and data analysis.
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