Thanksgiving is a time for family, friends, food and, for many people, giving back to those less fortunate during the holidays.
According to the Georgia Food Bank Association, 18.9 percent of Georgians are food insecure, meaning they do not know where they will find their next meal.
About 1 in 7.5 people, or an estimated 755,400 people, in metro Atlanta and North Georgia turn to food pantries and meal service programs for meal assistance, according to the Hunger in American 2014 Report.
During the holiday season, it is especially important for people to give back to those in need, said Kelsi Nummerdor, a member of the University of Georgia Campus Kitchen.
“I think for a lot of nonprofits that focus on hunger relief there is a special need during the holidays,” she said. “I think emotionally, around the holidays there are people that are more interested in learning about service as well.”
Campus Kitchen at UGA is one of 42 programs in the United States, and the UGA branch focuses on fighting food waste and relieving hunger and food insecurity for older adults in the Athens-Clarke County area.
Campus Kitchen annually holds a Thanksgiving food drive and delivery event known as Turkeypalooza. This year, the Campus Kitchen food drive was held online. Participants could choose the type of food they wanted to donate, pay for it and then the food distribution company provided the food to Campus Kitchen directly, which saved a lot of time and resources for donors, Nummerdor said.
Campus Kitchen uses these donations to prepare to-go meals as well as meal bags full of uncooked foodstuffs to distribute to their patrons, she said.
“All of the pre-cooked meals, I believe, will be about 160 and then the meal bags will probably total closer to 200,” she said. “All of that will be distributed on [Nov. 24], so the Monday just prior to Thanksgiving.”
Another organization in Athens-Clarke County that collects and distributes Thanksgiving food for those in need is the Athens Area Emergency Food Bank.
“The food bank gives food to people who come in a week before Thanksgiving to cook themselves,” said Kim Ramos, Athens Area Food Bank director. “It will include turkey or ham and then also traditional foods like sweet potatoes will also be included in the package around Thanksgiving.”
People in need of a Thanksgiving dinner can also find assistance at the Athens area Salvation Army.
“On Thanksgiving, we invite anyone in the community who needs a hot meal to come down to our location to have a turkey or ham dinner,” said Joseph Bottoms, volunteer coordinator for the Athens area Salvation Army. “We usually feed between 100 to 200 people total for Thanksgiving a year.”
Bottoms also said that at the dinner they try to lighten the atmosphere by providing children with activities and participants with entertainment to make everyone feel as if they are at home and with family for the holidays.
“I can honestly say all of us here are without family,” said Janet Messenger, a Salvation Army soup kitchen cook. “And so being here together makes us family. It makes it a happier time for us rather than a lonely time. We all add to that Thanksgiving and family experience for the people that come in.”
There are also several religiously affiliated groups that are hosting Thanksgiving dinners for those in need, such as Emmanuel Episcopal Church in partnership with Campus View Church of Christ. The pair will host a meal Thanksgiving Day from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Common Room of Emmanuel Church.
Emmanuel Episcopal and Campus View have been hosting Thanksgiving meals for about 15 and 20 years, respectively, to roughly 600 homeless and needy families, said Dee Forester, an Emmanuel Episcopal member.
“It is just a wonderful way to give back on a day when you have so much,” she said. “We have many families come out to share what they have with others.”