As most Americans celebrate Thanksgiving on Thursday (November 25) by devouring large family feasts, for those facing food insecurity, the holiday can be a time of even greater uncertainty.
To help those struggling to make ends meet, the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, along with many other organizations across the city, have been offering free food drives, allowing anyone in need to pick up a free meal kit ahead of the holiday.
Victoria Lasavath, the food bank marketing manager, said the pandemic exacerbated food insecurity.
“Food insecurity in Los Angeles County is unfortunately a very real problem (even) before the pandemic and the pandemic has exasperated those already vulnerable to food insecurity. And with Thanksgiving approaching this week, we are seeing a lot more families that are turning to the food bank, as well as our partner agencies for food assistance this time of year,” Lasavath said as volunteers handed out food packages behind her.
“We have brought food kits today where a family of four would be able to come and pick food resources, where they will have about 60 to 70 pounds of a combination of dry shelf staple items as well as fresh produce. And again, it’s designed for a family of four to last about seven days, and anyone is welcome that is food insecure in the area,” she added.
The Los Angeles Regional Food Bank and its partners now serve 900,000 people a month, triple the number from before COVID-19, Lasavath said.
Another organization that is hoping to spread some Thanksgiving joy in Los Angeles is ‘People Assisting the Homeless,’ with volunteers preparing holiday food bags that include a voucher for a free Thanksgiving turkey.
“So we’re here today, at PATH and like every year we are putting together Thanksgiving meal kits with donations from our community partners. Anything you would find in a Thanksgiving table, including green beans, corn stuffing as well as a gift card to buy a turkey, is available to all of our families and people who are receiving the bag,” explained Jennifer Lee, a PATH spokesperson, as she prepared food packages with volunteers.
“The greatest need is everywhere. We want to make sure that all of our families, everybody that we serve, has a Thanksgiving meal that they can make together with their friends and family or have for themselves and their neighbors,” she added.
Thanksgiving dates to the early 17th Century, when pilgrims from Europe and Native Americans gathered to share the autumn bounty – a celebration of goodwill before the genocide that was to come. Nowadays, the approach of the long holiday weekend typically ignites a frenzy of travel as scattered families come together for holiday meals.
With COVID-19 deaths and infections soaring last year, many people shared turkey dinners over Zoom. This year, with the pandemic more manageable, an estimated 53.4 million people will travel for Thanksgiving, up 13% from 2020, according to the American Automobile Association. Air travel is expected to recover to about 91% of pre-pandemic levels.
(Production: Sandra Stojanovic, Omar Younis)