The holiday season, or “season of giving,” moves many people to look beyond themselves and consider the needs of the nearly quarter of a million people in this region who are hungry.
Charitable organizations, here and around the country, are typically awash with donations of food, clothes, and money when the weather cools, leaves turn, and everyone feels the holiday spirit.
That's great, Anderson County advocates said, but fighting hunger is a year-round battle that calls for our assistance every month of the year. Those who package, prepare, and deliver aid to the needy would like people to hold onto the spirit of giving in spring, when donations all but cease.
“Our vision is a hunger-free East Texas, and not just during the holidays,” Donna Spann, communications director for East Texas Food Bank, told the Herald-Press. “Hunger doesn’t discriminate and never ceases.”
East Texas Food Bank, based in Tyler, helps charities in 26 counties across the state, including Anderson County. More than 240,000 hungry people live in this region, including 75,000 children who don't know where their next meal is coming from.
Experts say volunteers are especially needed in summer, when fresh produce spoils if not processed quickly.
“We have been donation-poor,” Vicki Therrell, of First Resource Center, told the Herald-Press. “Still, if people from Anderson County walk through our doors and tell us they're hungry, we’re going to give them food.
“We urge people, at any time of the year, to put one more box of macaroni and cheese, one more jar of peanut butter, and one more can of shelf-stable milk in their cart; that could help provide at least one meal to a hungry family.”
The First Resource Center, 801 N. Sycamore St., feeds several thousand hungry Anderson County residents every year.
“Our biggest donor, of course, is the Salvation Army,” Therrell said. “That also increases seasonally when their bell-ringers start their campaign.
Pete Garza, president of the St. Vincent De Paul food bank, which helps feed 450 local families a month, said food donations spike during the holidays. Even so, the Palestine community has historically given to St. Vincent De Paul year-round.
“During the year, people help us when they can with cash and clothing donations,” Garza said. “We always see more food donated during the holidays, though. Each Christmas and Thanksgiving, we try to make at least 100 holiday baskets for the needy.”
The best way to help, experts say, is to spread the word about hunger in your community – and keep the conversation going after the bells stop ringing. Spread the message every way you can, including social media.
Encourage friends and family to donate, or volunteer, regardless of how much or how little they have.