The blessed holiday known as Thanksgiving is known for its festive feasts and jubilant parties. And while many greatly anticipate lavish holiday meals shared with friends and family, others wonder and worry about the prospect of food insecurity—the inability to provide their kids and families with delicious and nourishing dinners on this and all days.
A thriving network of Hernando giving agencies is devoted to the mission of feeding the hungry in this area, and this Thanksgiving, they seek the help and support of the public to ensure that every family enjoys a fitting and fabulous holiday feast.
Based in Citrus County, the Community Food Bank supports eight hunger relief agencies throughout Hernando. “Our greatest need is donations. Money can be stretched the furthest as we are having to purchase more bulk products to ensure we can meet the meal and nutritional needs of clients,” said Gina Smith, CFB spokesperson. “$10 provides 100 meals. Our second greatest need is shelf-stable dry goods and canned goods.”
Smith reveals that, in these tough times, people, young and old, are struggling. “As you know, our area is one of the most popular areas to retire. But, unfortunately, it’s not all roses and sunsets for everyone. Inflation and the high cost of housing have forced many senior citizens to either delay their retirement or follow the new national trend of “unretirement” by going back into the workforce. Sadly, working seniors are still finding it difficult to make ends meet,” she said.
“Young families are also facing tough times as senior citizens with more experience either delay retirement or move back into the workforce, thus making high-paying employment scarce among the younger generations. Children are the ones who are most affected, some of whom rely solely on free or reduced school breakfast and lunch as their primary sources of nutrition.”
Over the past year alone, Smith reveals that one in six Nature Coast residents are relying on the CFB for a minimum of three meals each week. “Our outreach has been tireless, with more than five million meals distributed this year, actively assisting more than 70,000 people each month,” she said. “There is always an increase in need during the holidays, so any financial or in-kind support anyone can offer is so greatly appreciated!”
Donate to the Community Food Bank at https://feed352.org/donate/, or donations can be made over the phone at (352) 628-3663.
At St. Vincent de Paul, Ed Sweeney, President of Saint Vincent de Paul Hernando Citrus District Council, Inc., Spring Hill, and June Ward, food pantry director, are providing the public with their agency’s 2023 wish list for Thanksgiving donations.
“June is not shy about shooting for the moon when it comes to serving our hungry neighbors in need,” said Sweeney.
The pantry needs: Cranberry sauce; Pumpkin pie; Pumpkin (canned); Turkey; Mashed potatoes; Stuffing; Evaporated milk; Vegetables.
“Anything that will be a blessed meal for the needy,” said Ward. Donations are being accepted at SVdP Hernando Citrus District Council, Inc., 1291 Kass Circle, Spring Hill.
The Executive Director of Fostering Hope Florida, Inc., Gloria West-Lawson, is facing a unique challenge this Thanksgiving holiday. “We could use boxes of stuffing,” said West-Lawson. “We’re trying to help 100 foster families with their Thanksgiving meal.”
The Executive Director of People Helping People in Hernando County, Inc., Kendra Kenney, who has a mission to help end hunger in Hernando County, says that her agency is gearing up for a busy season of holiday giving.
“We would like to provide our 170 seniors who receive supplemental bags of food for their pantries from PHP with the traditional items for a holiday meal,” she said. “That would include canned green beans and corn, cranberry sauce, packaged instant mashed potatoes, turkey gravy, bags of stuffing and packets of dry milk.”
Aside from these food donations, monetary contributions are welcome as well. “Of course, monetary donations allow us to purchase items to ensure that we have enough to give to everyone eligible for the program, just in case we don’t receive those items as in-kind donations,” said Kenney.
PHP will be providing Thanksgiving feasts for people in need. “We will be providing a turkey dinner here at 1396 Kass Circle both the Sunday before and the Sunday after Thanksgiving for homeless and low-income families and individuals,” said Kenney. “Our facility will be closed on Thanksgiving Day so our volunteers and staff can enjoy the holiday with their families.”
For more information on how to help and support People Helping People, call (352) 686-4466, visit www.phphernando.org, or drop off donations at 1396 Kass Circle in Spring Hill.
Xonjenese Jacobs, DrPH, executive director of Pace Center for Girls, Hernando, 3139 Dumont Ave. at Spring Hill, seeks to provide a happier holiday for the families they serve.
“We are always grateful to receive the support of the community to make our girls’ holidays bright. Donations of grocery store gift cards are always welcome and most convenient for distribution to our girls and families,” said Jacobs. “As well, it allows our families to select their holiday meals with both dignity and the ability to acquire foods they traditionally enjoy. At present, we have about three families identified who may need support.” Call 352-667-1918 for more information.
Jericho Road Ministries, helping the hungry, the homeless and the hurting in Hernando County, is offering several opportunities for those wishing to give and receive food aid this holiday season.
“How the community can help the underprivileged this holiday season,” said April Gordon, director of development for Jericho Road. “They can bring any nonperishable food items to any of the four Jericho thrift stores. For anyone who can’t donate food items in person but would like to contribute, they can do so right on our main webpage at www.jericho-road.net. 100% of all donations go directly towards feeding and sheltering those in need.”
Those needing food assistance can visit the Jericho Road food barn distribution on Tuesdays or Fridays from 9 a.m. to noon (those interested in receiving food must show a Hernando County I.D.) at 1163 Howell Ave., Brooksville.
Capt. Joshua and Capt. April Davis, who oversees the Florida Division of the Hernando County Corps of the Salvation Army, are putting out the call for those yummy side dishes and desserts that complete a Thanksgiving feast.
“We can use Thanksgiving-related non-perishable items,” said Capt. April Davis, “such as:
Boxed Stuffing; Instant Mashed Potatoes; Canned Green Beans; Cream of Mushroom Soup; Canned Yams; Canned Corn; Gravy Packets; Canned Cranberry Sauce; Pumpkin Pie Filling/Pie Shells.”
“Those things that make a Thanksgiving meal complete,” said Capt. Joshua Davis.