Jean Leon Gerome Ferris -The First Thanksgiving

Jean Leon Gerome Ferris -The First Thanksgiving

“…and although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want, that we often wish       you partakers of our plenty.”

Excerpt from Edward Winslow’s 1621 letter describing the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth


And so it was on that very first Thanksgiving…a celebration of plenty and a desire to share.           The new settlers, with the aid of Native Americans, learned to plant crops that would grow in the North American climate, and where, in this new land, to fish and trap beaver. 1621 was a good year for the pilgrims.

Things had not gone well for the pilgrims the previous year. After arriving from England nearly half of the 100 settlers did not make it through that first winter. Many died of malnutrition after the first crops the pilgrims planted failed, others would die from inadequate shelter in the harsh New England winter. In 1620, the colonists were possibly the first food insecure population in the new land.  Were it not for the help of the Native American population, the history of Plymouth Colony might have been quite different.


This Thanksgiving, Give

As we prepare to celebrate this holiday, please remember that 1 out of every 7 Americans are still struggling to share in the bounty. They are children that go to school hungry, a husband and wife that work two jobs each but still can’t make ends meet, and seniors who live on fixed incomes that must choose every day between paying rent, refilling needed prescriptions or buying food for the table. Hunger is real and solvable in America, and we can all help.

Here are 10 ways to make a difference this holiday. Some you can do alone and for others you may want to invite friends. Some involve physical activity while others are point and click. If you find one you like, and do the activity please share it with us on Twitter at @mav_foundation using the hashtag #ThanksGivingGive. You may just be the inspiration someone needs to do the same.


1.     Volunteer at a Soup Kitchen

Soup kitchens have long been the first line of defense for hunger in any community. The needy can get a hot meal to tide them over in tough times and by serving a meal, you’re able to see hunger first hand. Soup Kitchens are always in need of food, volunteers, and monetary donations.

A word of advice – if you plan on volunteering, contact the soup kitchen in your area early.
Thanksgiving is their busiest day of the year so there may be some training beforehand, or they may already be adequately staffed for that day.  

Thanksgiving at the Bowery Kitchen

The Bowery Mission in NYC, which has been in operation since 1879, will start cooking the Sunday before Thanksgiving – and by the end will have prepared over 800 turkeys.


2.   Host a Friendsgiving Dinner to End Child Hunger


1 in 5 children in the US are classified as food insecure meaning there are no guarantees to where their next meal is coming from. The No Kid Hungry campaign connects kids in need with nutritious food and works with their families on how to prepare healthy, affordable meals. The campaign also engages the public to make ending child hunger a national priority.  

This year, throw a Friendsgiving dinner to raise money and awareness for child hunger. Register online to get a boatload of information on hunger, email invite templates and recipes to make your dinner a success.


3.   Donate to a Food Pantry

Since the economic crisis of 2008, food pantries are now where an astonishing percent of Americans turn to help make ends meet and feed their families. 56% of seniors use the food pantries at month’s end when money is tight. 26% of active servicemen and women need the help of food pantries to put food on the table for their families. There are over 60,000 food pantries across the country today with many located in places of worship and community centers.

Food pantries run on public and private donations of food and funds to survive. Most of their staff is volunteer-based. While pantries supply food to those in need, some do have income requirements or need a referral from a local social services program to participate. Many food pantries need non-food items as well. Toothbrushes, toothpaste, feminine hygiene products and unopened packages of underwear are some of the most-welcome items. A list of food pantries can be found here.


In Darien and Norwalk, CT, Person to Persons’ Emergency Food Pantry provides enough groceries for clients to prepare three meals a day for seven days, including a variety of non-perishable items. Volunteers accompany clients as they self-select grocery items or pack grocery orders for clients to pick up.


4.   Donate to a Food Bank

Maybe the best way to support those in need this holiday season is to give to a food bank, which are large warehouse hubs for food distribution. Food Banks supply the food to Soup Kitchens, Food Pantries, and Food Shelves at a discounted rate. Food Banks are also able to receive and distribute excess food from the federal government, which is passed on to food pantries and community organizations at no charge.


If you’re in Virginia Beach, VA you can stop by the Mayflower Marathon Food Drive, hosting a 57½ hour food drive! You can’t oversleep on this one.

Food Banks have contracts to purchase needed food from farmers, food service companies and grocery store chains at a discount. It is sometimes more cost effective to donate money and let the food bank purchase the items they are most in need of. Many food banks have online virtual food drive applications that allow you to create your own personalized food drive that you can invite your friends to join and donate.  A list of food banks nationwide can be found here.

Feeding America is the largest domestic hunger-relief organization in the US operating over 200 food banks across the country. Bank of America will match donations to Feeding America Give a Meal program ($1 donated with a $2 match up to $1,000 of each such donation and a maximum of $1,000 per donor in the aggregate) until 12/31/16. Your donation can be made to Feeding America or the food bank in your area, either way it’s matched.

The food banks in CT are The Connecticut Food Bank and Foodshare.




5.   Attend an Empty Bowl Event


The concept is simple…the community gets together, purchases a bowl, (usually hand made and donated by local potters) which is then filled with homemade soup – generally donated by local restaurants. The money raised goes to a hunger relief organization. It’s sort of a soup kitchen in reverse. If you Google, Empty Bowl, you may find one near you.

The Empty Bowl event in Boise, ID happens the Friday after Thanksgiving and will feature more than 3,000 bowls to choose from. Bowls start at $10 and as an added bonus there is free parking downtown that day.


6.   Active? Enter a Run or Walk for Hunger


If you’re in San Diego, California on Thanksgiving, you can run a 5K or a 10K in the morning and be back home by Noon (10K starts at 7:00 a.m. / 5K starts at 8:15 a.m.). If you generally walk the dog at that hour, no problem, dogs are welcome!  

Proceeds benefit the hunger-relief programs of the San Diego Food Bank and the Hand Up Youth Food Pantry at Jewish Family Service of San Diego.

walk-to-end-hunger-plateThe Walk to End Hunger is a family-friendly 5K fun walk presented by The Mosaic Company. Held on Thanksgiving morning in the Mall of America, in Bloomington, MN. It’s a great way to start your holiday off right – giving back before you give thanks!

The WTEH has raised more than $2 million in eight years to provide financial support for hunger issues facing Twin Cities metro area residents. Walk proceeds are funneled back to 12 local hunger relief organizations: Aliveness Project; The Food Group; Hunger Solutions; ICA Foodshelf;Keystone Community Services; Loaves and Fishes; Meals on Wheels; Minnesota FoodShare; Neighbors, Inc.; The Salvation Army; Second Harvest Heartland; and VEAP.


7.   Man the Phones for Monte’s March 

2 days. 3 counties. 43 miles. Fighting hunger, feeding hope.

Since 2010, radio personality Monte Belmonte has pushed a shopping cart through the streets of Western Massachusetts to raise awareness (and money) for the hungry.  Walking beside him are politicians, community leaders, businessmen and women and the Executive Director of the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts.   During the two day march, Monte’s radio station, WRSI-The River, hosts a telethon to raise money for the food bank.

Last year’s march raised over $150,000, and if you’re in the Springfield, Northampton, or Greenfield area, volunteers are needed to man the phones Nov 21- 22.


8.   Attend an Annual Fundraiser


Turn a donation into a fun and festive event by attending the annual fundraiser for a local food pantry or food bank. Sometimes the single largest fundraising event of the year, these galas are often complete with full dinners and entertainment.

SOME (So Others Might Eat) is an interfaith, community-based organization that exists to help the poor and homeless of our nation’s capital, meeting their needs of food, clothing, and health care. In 2015, they served over 380,000 meals. Their annual dinner gala complete with silent auction is November 19th at The National Building Museum in Washington, DC. 


9.   Make a Food Rescue Run

Did you know that as much as 40% of the food we produce in the US goes to waste? Much of it is food that is still perfectly fine, but may be slow to sell or approaching its “Best Used By Date”. Recently, food rescue organizations have been popping up in communities to rescue food from grocery stores, restaurants, food manufacturers and the like and transporting it directly to soup kitchens, food pantries and shelters, where it is distributed.  

These organizations always need volunteers for pickups so if you have a car or bike, sign up for a run with a local organization.


In Colorado – Boulder Food Rescue        In Pittsburgh, PA – Food Rescue 412                              In CT, OH, NM, LA, IN – Community Plates        In NYC, NY – City Harvest


10.   Support Your School

Whether you’re an Aggie, a Boilermaker, a Buckeye, a Fighting Irishman, a Gael, a Hoosier, a Longhorn, a Runnin’ Rebel, a Trojan, a Wolverine, or if you simply Roll Tide, you know you’ve received countless letters asking for donations to support the latest project of your alma mater.  What you may not know is that all of the schools mentioned above, along with 300 others across the nation, now have an on-campus food pantry to address the increasing issue of student hunger.


A recent nationwide study by the College and University Food Bank Alliance* (CUFBA) suggest that 46% of the current US student population is moderately to severely food insecure – impacting their attendance, their concentration and ultimately their grades.

This giving season, see if your school is listed on CUFBA and make a donation to help the most important piece of your alma mater – the students.  

*CUFBA – co-founded by the Michigan State Student Food Bank and the Oregon State University Food Pantry, is a professional organization consisting of campus-based programs focused on alleviating food insecurity, hunger, and poverty among college and university students in the United States.



Whatever you choose, you’ll be choosing to make a difference during this season of giving.           Be the reason someone is thankful.