As the holidays approach, most of us are eagerly anticipating the joys of the season, with gift exchanges and delicious meals shared with friends and loved ones. But for those who are struggling – especially as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact so many – the holidays are a stark reminder of ongoing financial challenges and worry.
For many of our neighbors, there is the likelihood that, instead of sumptuous feasts, they will be facing empty plates this holiday season. Here are five things you should know about hunger as the holiday season approaches this year:
1. The pandemic’s economic impact continues to hurt the community’s most at-risk.
The devastating impact of COVID-19 is still being felt by Sarasota’s most vulnerable families. Many are still playing catch-up from pandemic-related financial challenges, including the struggle to stay abreast of basic expenses such as food, rent and utilities. The food bank continues to see overwhelming need: already this year, All Faiths has distributed nearly 40% more food than it did pre-pandemic (in 2019).
2. The past year has deepened the hunger crisis in our region.
In 2020, All Faiths saw a sharp increase in the number of community members using its services. It distributed 60% more meals than in 2019, comprising nearly 22.4 million pounds of food and 18.4 million meals. Of those using its programs and services, 53% were new clients. An astonishing 362% more users visited the organization’s website seeking food resources.
In order to meet the need, All Faiths expanded its partner network to nearly 200 agencies and increased its monthly distributions to more than 300.
3. All Faiths is committed to distributing healthy, nutritious food.
According to a white paper published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2020, 56% of children and 46% of adults have overall poor-quality diets. The paper also notes that more Americans are sick than healthy, in large part due to diet-related illnesses.
For low-income households as well as those who have suffered financially due to the pandemic, the high cost of fruits and vegetables can make healthy eating difficult. But, thanks to All Faiths Food Bank’s commitment to providing the community with high-nutrition foods, plus strenuous fundraising efforts during its Autumn Harvest campaign, thousands of children, families, seniors and veterans in Sarasota and DeSoto counties have access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Of the total food All Faiths distributes, 43% is fresh produce.
All Faiths believes that everyone deserves access to healthy foods. In fact, healthy eating benefits the entire community, as neighbors enjoy improved health outcomes and children have the nutrition they need to focus in class, stay healthy, and grow to their full potential.
4. For 16 years, All Faiths Food Bank has worked to provide food for area community members in need during the holidays.
Over the years, All Faiths Food Bank has steadily expanded its efforts to provide food for community members through its ThankFULL campaign. This is possible thanks to individual and corporate gifts as well as ongoing, annual support from the Kathleen K. Catlin Foundation Fund of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County.
This year, the organization’s goal is to distribute more than 12,500 turkeys and sides, and a total of 3.2 million holiday meals, through its own distributions as well as through its network of partner agencies.
5. YOU can make a difference for area children, families, veterans and seniors.
With a gift to All Faiths Food Bank’s ThankFULL campaign, you can make it possible for your neighbors to enjoy a festive holiday celebration complete with a healthy, delicious meal. You can also host a virtual fundraiser as well as encourage your family, coworkers, friends and neighbors to share the joy of helping others and showcase the true meaning of the season through a gift.
Visit allfaithsfoodbank.org to learn how you can help All Faiths Food Bank turn empty plates into ThankFULL tummies and hearts this holiday season.