By Guest Blogger Leslie Loyd, A Simple Gesture
So much of the holiday season is centered around food: tables overflowing on Thanksgiving, recipe after recipe for using leftover turkey, baking traditional holiday cookies, and feasts on Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. But not every family gets to partake in these celebrations—in fact, too many families in our area are struggling just to keep food on the table.
Throughout 2023 local food pantries have reported sharp increases in the number of clients seeking assistance. Why? Extra food assistance that was approved during COVID has been rolled back, inflation continues to increase, and wages have stayed stagnant. According to the Department of Agriculture, over half of those experiencing food insecurity are employed full time, and another 28% are retired or disabled. In Guilford County, 17.8% of children live with food insecurity. In Forsyth County the rate is 16.8%, and in Alamance the rate is 15.3%.
Easy Ways to Help
Before the holiday rush overtakes you, take a few minutes to plan how you’ll do your part to ensure hungry neighbors have the food they need. There are lots of ways to help!
- Plan or contribute to a food drive. Food pantries rely on holiday food drives to keep the shelves stocked through the busy holiday season and into the new year. For tips on running a successful food drive, click here. Or if you’re ready to get your food drive rolling, contact A Simple Gesture. We’ll provide food collection bags or bins and a list of suggested items, and we’ll even pick up the food you collect and deliver it to a partner food pantry.
- Try a reverse Advent food drive. This idea is based on the popular Advent calendars, which typically have a treat for each day leading up to Christmas. With a reverse Advent food drive, each day instead of getting a treat you add an item to a food donation box or bag—on day 1 you add a box of cereal, on day 2 you add a jar of peanut butter, etc. Here’s an example. Get your neighbors, faith community, clubs, and business involved. When everyone contributes, you’ll make a big difference! If you don’t commemorate Advent, these food drives are also called Hanukkah Countdown Calendars and Blessing Bags.
- Watch for food drives at houses of worship and grocery stores. Many faith communities have a tradition of helping those in need during the holidays, and many grocery stores run holiday food drives. Food Lion offers specially marked prepacked food boxes designed to be donated.
- No time to shop? Financial donations are always welcome. Food pantries use those funds to purchase items that typically aren’t donated, such as meat, dairy products, fresh fruits and vegetables, staples such as flour and sugar, baby food, and infant formula.
- Discover a volunteer opportunity that’s right for you and your family. The Volunteer Center of the Triad lists hundreds of options. Choose based on causes you’re connected to and learn about one-time opportunities or ongoing ways to give back. A few of the larger food pantries and food collection organizations in need of volunteers include A Simple Gesture and BackPack Beginnings in Greensboro, Second Harvest Food Bank both in Winston-Salem and Greensboro, Forsyth Backpack Program in Winston-Salem, Open Door Ministries in High Point, West End Ministries in High Point, and Hope Outreach in Burlington. In many cases families can volunteer together.
- Sign up to be a recurring food donor with A Simple Gesture. With A Simple Gesture, families fill one of our green reusable grocery bags with nonperishable food every month or every other month (your choice). On your pick up date (always a Saturday morning) you place your bag on your front porch. Our volunteers pick it up, take it to one of our partner pantries (A Simple Gesture supports 22 food pantries across Guilford County), and leave you an empty green bag for the next pickup. More than 4,200 households in Guilford County already participate. To learn more, in Guilford County click here. In Alamance County, click here. Live in Forsyth County? We’re working on starting A Simple Gesture in your county soon. If you’re interested in participating, email email@example.com.
What to Do if You Need Help
If COVID taught us anything, it’s that life can change in an instant. When an unexpected layoff or a serious illness strikes, suddenly you can be struggling to pay your bills and keep food on the table. Help is available—here’s what to do:
- If you have children in school, contact your school social worker. They can help direct you to services, including food pantries set up like grocery stores where you can choose the items your family needs.
- Download the Greater Guilford Food Finder app. This resource will help you find food pantries, community meals, community gardens, and much more. The app is free in your app store. (If you’re looking for opportunities to volunteer, the app also provides a great list of potential partners.)
- Call 211. You will be connected with resources to help. Your call is confidential.
By working together, we can ensure that Triad families feel the love and support of their community during their time of need. Have a wonderful holiday season!