‘Food insecurity’ becoming bigger issue
Thanksgiving is a time of celebration for families to enjoy great food and the time they’re able to spend with one another.
But for those going hungry, their table could be bare. It’s why St. Charles Parish Department of Community Services has made a point of trying to change that for as many people who are in need as possible.
It is annual Thanksgiving basket drive has grown each year and this year it gave out more than 250 baskets and turkeys to elderly and low-income families in the parish. Each basket contains a turkey and other dishes with a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.
“The department has been doing this for many years, and I know when I got here in 2010, it was about 50 to 60 baskets each year,” said Joan Diaz, the parish’s director of Community Services. “Over the last couple of years, we’ve really worked to develop our partnership with businesses in the community and accepting donations … from those donations, we’ve been able to expand the program.”
The donations are used to purchase food for the baskets, which alongside the turkey carry many traditional Thanksgiving staples like candied yams, cranberry sauce, macaroni and cheese, rice, corn muffin mix, stove top stuffing, cake mix, pumpkin bread and cookies among the treats inside. A soft drink is often also included along with fruit and vegetables.
Diaz said her department has seen food insecurity become a growing issue and that, as clients in need of assistance has increased, it’s allowed the department to make a list of those who would qualify to receive a Thanksgiving basket.
“Anyone who’s been out shopping lately knows the price of food has gone up,” Diaz said. “The average price of a turkey is $15 to $20. If you buy 30 items for a $1, $1.50 or $2, you have to have $50 to provide your family with a meal.”
She said that the department coordinates with food banks, churches and other entities in the area that distribute food baskets to avoid duplication.
Some of the event sponsors bring turkeys, others donate money to purchase food and others hold food drives. She added a number of individuals have been generous enough to donate money or food items.
“One thing about St. Charles Parish, the community does rally behind us on special activities like this and they provide support,” Diaz said. “We know we can count on them every year and that we have a very good base of support here. And that’s the way it should be, with public-private partnerships designed to serve the needs of our community. We have great relationships with our partners and they really stepped up.”