The Rockefeller tree is up, Citi Pond at Bryant Park is open, clubs and hotels are promoting New Years Eve Packages, and Santa is ringing the Salvation Army donation bell. The city glows at night with lights, Hanukkah arrived early, and Christmas trees are blinking bright in windows. Covered by Black Friday deals and Christmas wish lists, the thought of Thanksgiving dinner seems so distant now. We tend to focus so much on Thanksgiving dinner and very little on holiday dinners, a dinner that is special because it brings the family together just before the New Year.
Lucy Cabrera, President and CEO of the Food Bank For New York City noted, “With 40 percent of New Yorkers having difficulty affording food for themselves and their families, this has been a very challenging year. And the holidays can be especially daunting.” So how can you spread some of that Christmas spirit to a family you don’t know?
In 2009, the New York City Coalition Against Hunger (NYC CAH) reported 55.3% of food pantries and soup kitchens surveyed did not have enough food or resources to meet the current demand. The idea of pantry visitors can sometimes be skewed. New Yorker Christine Magyartis illumines this point by explaining that “Hungry people aren’t always in soup kitchens, sometimes they are walking the aisles of the ShopRites making decisions, tough decisions, about how they are going to feed their families.”
The smaller, local food pantries most certainly need food donations. Here is a list of items you can donate that pantries need the most of: Box of cereal or oatmeal, dried fruit, powdered milk, 100% fruit juice, peanut butter, canned soup, vegetables, or fruit, any canned protein (i.e. beef stew, chicken, tuna), or meat sauce, macaroni & cheese, pasta or rice, or applesauce. Glass is not preferred with the exception of donated baby food.
To find a pantry that is closest to your home or on your way to work, just enter your zip code at NYCCAH.org/maps/index.php.
Organizations like City Harvest and the Food Bank NYC buy food wholesale or get the food donated. What they need help with more are transportation costs, so they get a lot more food for every dollar you donate. The Food Bank has recently started a campaign that entreats New Yorkers to stop avoiding the fact that hunger is a reality for more than a million New Yorkers.
If you can’t afford the time to volunteer or don’t know who to write a check, you can donate $10 to Food Bank NYC by texting FBNYC at 50555.
Joel Berg, author of All You Can Eat: How Hungry Is America?, suggested some next step options to NYC CAH’s. “They shouldn’t volunteer at soup kitchen on Christmas—instead, they should donate their skills year-round. If they know how to do a website, if they can write and edit, know graphic design or spreadsheets, that’s needed far more than large groups showing up on a holiday.”
For volunteer opportunities after the holidays, the NYC CAH has a list of places to volunteer at for Martin Luther King Day Service Day being held on January 17, 2011. Follow the link, MLK Service Day, and choose which volunteer sites you’d like to volunteer at.