You’ve likely seen them on the news over recent months.
Lines of cars and people queuing for food banks.
Those lines go for blocks.
With the pandemic’s impact on our national economy, furloughs and unemployment have spiked to levels unseen since The Great Depression. And while initial federal aid helped families make ends meet, that support has run out now.
The result over the next few months will be particularly bleak.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, even before the pandemic hit, 10.5 percent of U.S. households faced food insecurity sometime in 2019. That’s 35 million Americans who faced hunger when the economy was humming.
According to researchers at Northwestern University, households with significant food need have doubled this year, reaching nearly one in four homes in the United States. Over 14 million children in our country now live in homes where there is food insecurity. In total, 54 million Americans — including one in four children — face potential hunger this year. Often the only meals they receive during the weekday are at school.
That makes for unpleasant weekends and holidays.
Neighborhoods like Westchase and communities north like Mandolin, Highland Park, Westchester, Windsor Place and West Hampton have been spared the worst economic losses. Most affluent suburbs are filled with college graduates who were able to transition to virtual work during the pandemic, meaning their economic wellbeing was not as greatly impacted. The brunt of the economic downturn has most heavily impacted those who could least afford it—non-college graduates who can’t work virtually. That, however, doesn’t mean our neighbors have been spared. All of us likely have friends who have seen reductions of income and job losses. Food insecurity is now knocking on some very unfamiliar doors. Families who are solidly middle class and who have never sought any assistance before have appeared at our local food banks looking for assistance to keep their children fed.
One of Westchase’s most important traditions—our Annual Thanksgiving Food Drive—has never been more needed. Demand at local food banks like Metropolitan Ministries has doubled. Nationwide, food banks are reporting that 40 percent of their visitors have never visited a food bank before. Annually Metropolitan Ministries provides just under 2 million meals to needy local families. Our community’s Thanksgiving Food Drive is their largest community drive in all of Tampa Bay.
Paula Dang, Metropolitan Ministries Senior Manager of Community Donations, remarked, “This year we are projecting to serve as many as 40,000 families for Thanksgiving and Christmas combined in Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Hernando, and Manatee counties due to the great need in the community. In order to serve our children and families this season we will need 50,000 food boxes—1.5 million pounds of food.”
Dang added, “Our greatest food needs for this upcoming holiday season include turkeys, cereal, yams, beans, canned vegetables, stuffing mix, gravy mix, cake/dessert mix and soup. We are also accepting gift cards to Walmart, Target, and Publix as well.”
Each year, hundreds of Westchase area families like yours make a difference—and make a holiday brighter for families and their children.
With your help, our neighborhoods can bring a happy Thanksgiving to hundreds of local hurting families.
This year to encourage even more residents to participate, a number of local businesses have issued challenge matches to encourage you to put the Thanksgiving Food Drive on your shopping list.
The following businesses will match your donations or your participation in the drive in generous ways:
Nancy & Doug Wood, The Wood Team—Smith & Associates Real Estate: $1 per participating home up to $1,500.
Psychologist Maria T. Aranda, PhD: 1 additional turkey for every 10 turkeys donated. (up to $1,000)
Sandey Goodman of YogaSix in Westchase: 50 cents for every participating home (up to $500)
Dr. B.Ngoc Pham, MD with Tre Medspa and Tre Nail Lounge: 1 can for every participating home.
Dr. Christine Armstrong of Children’s Medical Center of Westchase: 50 cents for every donated turkey (up to $300)
Royal Financial: one turkey for every 50 collected up to 10 turkeys and one can of food for every 10 participating homes up to 100 cans (up to $300)
Kelley Prince, M.A., BCBA of BCOTB Behavioral Consulting: one turkey for every 50 collected up to 10 turkeys and one can of food for every 10 participating homes up to 100 cans (up to $300)
How to Help?
To join the community effort, simply purchase as many of the food items as you wish from this printable list and place them in front of your homes, either out on your driveway or near your mailbox at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 15 (Please do not leave donations in alleys; these are not driven by our volunteers). Please note that while the drive has been the Sunday before Thanksgiving in the past, this year it occurs a week earlier.
Whether you can afford only a few cans or an entire meal (see our Box of Hope food list), we welcome your participation. If you are donating from your pantry, please check expiration dates before placing items out for donation. Expired items cannot be accepted.
The weekend prior to the drive, volunteers will leave a reminder flyer with the list at your door so you can take it to the supermarket with you.
If you’re out of town on Sunday, Nov. 15, you can still participate. You can drop your donations off early at 10314 Seabridge Way in The Bridges. You can also leave donations with a neighbor to set out on your driveway on Nov. 15. (No frozen turkeys can be dropped off early, however, since no freezer space is available). If dropping off early, please include your address and subdivision name with your donation so that your neighborhood receives credit.
WOW’s food drive volunteers will do the rest. Dozens will canvass neighborhoods and deliver reminder flyers over the weekend of Nov. 7-8. On Sunday, Nov. 15, volunteers will then drive through your neighborhood to pick up donations.
If you are donating a frozen turkey, please place it out as close to the 1 p.m. pick-up as possible to help keep it frozen.
If you are interested in volunteering with the drive, simply e-mail WOW Editor Chris Barrett at email@example.com. We especially need volunteers in the Westwood Lakes, West Hampton and Westchester neighborhoods.
WOW hopes even more residents and businesses participate in the food drive’s matching campaign. Simply e-mail WOW Publisher Chris Barrett at firstname.lastname@example.org for information on how you can be a matching partner. We will announce your generous match on Westchase Neighborhood News on Facebook.
By Chris Barrett, Publisher