Saturday, November 15, 2014

"Let's help families in need."

In November and December, many organizations dedicated to helping needy families normally sponsor food drives. I wanted to write a little bit about two such agencies that serve residents of the city and county where I live: Ann Arbor in Washtenaw County, Michigan. I hope that other food bloggers will join me in thinking about food needs in their communities.

At the Fitness Center where I go for yoga classes, a sign labeled "Let's help families in need" appeared this week. It lists a variety of items that a local social service organization, SOS Community Services, would like more fortunate people to share with their clientele. Next to the sign are several collection boxes, which happily are filling up fast.

At the top of the list: "Frozen whole turkeys." A little add-on sign explains that donated turkeys must be brought in only on one afternoon just before the  holiday. Other listed items are all traditional for Thanksgiving dinner: requests include cans of vegetables, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, fruit, cream of chicken or mushroom soup, broth, fried onions, and pie filling. Many other contributions are needed too: boxed or packaged pie crust, marshmallows, macaroni and cheese, stuffing mix, mashed potatoes, gravy, bisquick or corn muffin mix, sugar, and flour.

SOS, located in our neighboring town of Ypsilanti, runs a food pantry where their clients can select the items that they need for their kitchens, items they know they want to use. They offer these foods to people who can cook Thanksgiving dinner, but don't have the means to buy the ingredients. Enabling families to cook a traditional holiday meal that they are otherwise unable to afford seems to be a very helpful way to improve their lives, and I find this a generous approach.

The SOS website states:
"The food pantry helps people facing hardships stretch their limited budgets. The program makes sure that parents do not have to choose between feeding their children and keeping them housed. SOS has a choice pantry, which means that consumers have the option to choose the food and personal care items they want and will use. The pantry provides a day’s allotment of food (three meals) for each person within the household. This service is offered to each consumer, by appointment up to four times per year, plus one holiday. Families can access fresh produce weekly without an appointment." (from SOS website)
People who want to contribute to SOS can donate food to their seasonal and ongoing food drives like this one, and can also give them money. Besides providing their clients with the food from the food drives, SOS is a distribution point for Food Gatherers: "the food rescue and food bank program serving Washtenaw County. Food Gatherers exists to alleviate hunger and eliminate its causes in our community."

Food Gatherers collects surplus food, garden produce, and donated food from a number of sources and gives appropriate foods to "150 non-profit agencies and programs providing direct food assistance in the form of hot meals, nutritious snacks or emergency groceries to low-income adults, seniors and children in Washtenaw County."  (from Food Gatherers Website).

Unfortunately, there are many people facing food insecurity in Washtenaw county. SOS clients, who may receive other social services as well as food aid, are allowed access to the food pantry no more than five times per year. SOS also runs several programs to assist the homeless in finding both temporary and permanent shelter. Other local programs of course exist to provide hot meals for those without the resources to prepare food, and other forms of assistance.

Writing and thinking about food, always having enough to eat, living without fear of food insecurity: these are luxuries that I and many food bloggers and our families enjoy. I'm concerned for those who go hungry -- in Michigan 17.9% of the population sometimes suffers from food insecurity, in the US as a whole, 16.4%. I'm thinking of these local social service organizations who try to help, and also thinking about hunger throughout the country and around the world. To quote Food Gatherers: "We believe that food is a basic human right."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mae --- Thanks for this post. It deserves wide circulation. It's certainly true, as you say, that we get many pleas for help in this season. It's not easy to decide where to direct donations, and your writing provides good information for that.