For many of us in Washington state this will be a different Thanksgiving than we are used to. But it shouldn’t be a meager one for those families who are experiencing job losses and other hardships as coronavirus infections intensify in our communities, threatening a bleak fall and winter.
Many of us — disappointed but resolute — will comply with the advice of health officials to limit our holiday gatherings during the coming months to our immediate household, continuing to limit contact during a season that is about generously sharing with our extended families and friends.
Even if families are physically distanced, however, that generosity can and should continue and should be extended to those in our communities who have been harshly affected by the virus and its economic impacts because of loss of work and the reduced ability to afford groceries, rent or mortgage, medical care, utility payments and more.
During the past year, much of it spent coping with the pandemic, the number of Washington residents who struggle to provide three meals a day for their families — considered “food insecure” — nearly doubled from 850,000 individuals before the pandemic to about 1.6 million as of this May. That number is expected to grow to 2.2 million adults and children by December, according to estimates provided by Northwest Harvest from a needs assessment made by the nonprofit, Second Harvest and the state Department of Agriculture.
At the same time, Northwest Harvest notes, Washington state ranks 10th in the country for overall wealth; but 34th in terms of food insecurity.
There’s a challenge implicit in that statistic; at a time of great need among our neighbors, we have two responsibilities:
• Encourage our representatives at state and national levels to adopt more assistance to help unemployed workers, small businesses and other employers, child care providers and others;
• Give directly to those nonprofit agencies who work diligently to help our neighbors in need.
The pandemic, while complicating our lives, has also frustrated the efforts of food banks and other assistance organizations in finding and scheduling volunteers and forcing the cancellation of food drives and fundraising events for some organizations, increasing the importance of our donations.
Those donations can be made locally or regionally.
Those who wish to donate to their community’s food bank directly can consult a list of Snohomish County food banks, offering information about how to donate. Contact information is available through the Snohomish County Food Bank Coalition at www.snohomishcountyfoodbankcoalition.org/.
Earlier this year, the WA Food Fund was launched by Philanthropy Northwest and Gov. Jay Inslee to encourage and facilitate donations to food banks in the state. Money donated to the statewide relief fund at philanthropynw.org/wa-food-fund will be distributed to three regional food donation organizations that supply community food banks: Food Lifeline, Northwest Harvest and Second Harvest.
Donations also can me made to Northwest Harvest, which supplies food programs across the state, at www.northwestharvest.org/.
While donations of canned goods and other nonperishables are accepted gratefully by food banks, donations of cash go much farther in meeting needs.
Cash donations are preferred because:
• They’re more cost-effective for food banks, which can obtain food from suppliers, farmers and others at lower cost, and can select the particular food and other items that are most in need;
• It allows the food banks to purchase fresh produce, meat and other perishable items that provide a healthier diet for food bank clients;
• It helps limit food waste, by allowing the food banks to take advantage of available surplus from restaurants, stores and suppliers; and
• It’s easier to keep track of the tax deduction. Taxpayers can deduct up to $300 of qualified cash donation to tax-exempt public charities for 2020, and the donations don’t have to be itemized on longer tax forms.
The pandemic has forced changes to our routines and required personal sacrifices — and it will for some time to come — but it hasn’t shaken our resolve to help those in need or the satisfaction we feel when we do.