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Creating Holiday Baskets for Hunger

 A teenage girl, her younger brother, and her younger sister stand outside a window peeking in on a beautiful feast. The white tablecloth barely shows through the many dishes laying on top of it. The table is adorned with turkey, ham, potatoes, bread, vegetables, desserts, candles, wine, water. The people at the table are dressed well with diamond rings and gold necklaces. They are laughing and happy enjoying the fellowship of their friends and family. A fire burns next to them, and their designer coats hang in the cloak closet. 

The teenage girl, her brother, and her sister are hungry. Their pockets have a bit of change. They are planning to use it to go to the store to buy some bread, eggs, cheese, and potatoes for dinner at home for the holidays. They dream about the day they can eat such a fine meal. For now, they can only watch others enjoy it through a window.  The teenage girl and her brother and sister are in tattered clothes. Their shoes, once white, are now browned by the dirty streets. The girl plays with a threaded friendship bracelet, and her sister twirls her rope necklace where she keeps her key chain. They paint faint smiles on sad faces, and they walk away. Their sadness causes them to argue, and their hunger adds to their stress. They grab their too-small, too-thin coats, as they walk away into the piercing winter wind.

This scene may seem all too familiar to some. They may have glimpsed the children looking longingly at a table of food. Maybe others have been the children. In my life, I have had the unique experience of being on both sides of that window. I also have had the opportunity to help feed people on both sides of that window.

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Hunger is defined by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as "a potential consequence of food insecurity that, because of prolonged, involuntary lack of food, results in discomfort, illness, weakness, or pain that goes beyond the usual uneasy sensation." Very low food security is a term used to describe ongoing hunger and lack of food availability. During the holidays, individuals with moderate food security and even low food security may struggle. states that seniors and struggling families may have to choose between food and things like transportation, utilities, healthcare or other necessities. 

Individuals experience reduced health status as a result of hunger. Being hungry and trying to find food creates considerable stress. Searching for food and sacrificing other needs has a negative impact on mental health. Prolonged hunger can lead to depression and anxiety. Hungry students and adults have reduced cognition because food fuels all bodily functions, even the brain. According to the Food Research and Action Center, physical health problems, like anemia, hypertension, diabetes, also are exacerbated from vitamin deficiency or inadequate food options. 

Holiday meals can become quite pricey for families who already experience food insecurity. In one of my volunteer roles, I created holiday baskets to address the extra food needed to allow families to enjoy the holidays. My plan was to create a basket of food that would allow hungry families to enjoy holiday meals in their own homes and with the people with whom they wanted to fellowship. My plan was to include all of the "fixings" to prepare a holiday dinner. My service organization included the following in our holiday food baskets. However, you can create your own holiday basket with your own "fixings" to help feed those in need in your area. 

Holiday Food Baskets

4 cans of vegetables 
1 package of dinner rolls
1 can cranberry sauce
10 lbs bag of potatoes
2-5 pounds of yams/sweet potatoes
1 bag of marshmallows 
1 family sized box of stuffing
1 bag of croutons
1 can/jar of chicken/turkey broth
2 cans of cream of mushroom/cream of chicken soup
1 package of French onions
1 bag of flour
1 bag of sugar
1 box of baking soda
1 container of baking powder
1 can of pie filling
1 set of salt/pepper
1 each of ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice
1 box of Ritz crackers
1 jar/can of olives
$25-$50 gift card to purchase perishable food items and/or fresh fruits and vegetables