After taking most of this year off from writing so that I could run for school board, I’m back! The election was last Tuesday, and I am happy to say I was successful in my run and have been elected to the school board for a 4 year term. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed campaigning for school board, and I now know many more people from my community than I did when I started my campaign. I was, however, equally surprised at how much I missed writing this blog. I am so glad to be back and eager to dive into reading all the articles I have saved over the past few months!
My shift in focus back to food insecurity coincides with the run up to the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday seasons. Being involved in a food pantry during the holiday season results in a seesawing of emotions for me. I have more than once found myself leaving a volunteer shift in low spirits over the holiday season. Hearing the stories of individuals and families who find themselves in such heartbreaking and often desperate situations is extra difficult when the balance of your life is filled with thoughts of and plans for the gastronomic bounty that is Thanksgiving and the excitement of giving and receiving that comes with Christmas. The juxtaposition of these two very different life situations can leave me filled with a combination of anger, sadness and helplessness.
Luckily, working in the food pantry during the holiday season also brings examples of generosity, gratitude and joy. Donations to food banks and pantries tend to increase during the holiday season, as individuals reflect on the abundance in their lives. Churches, schools, social groups and businesses often sponsor food drives or adopt-a-family programs for the holidays. Currently, I know my sons’ high school student council is sponsoring a food drive to benefit our food pantry. In addition to the generosity exhibited by the general population through their increased donations, my spirits are often uplifted by the expression of gratitude a grocery cart full of food can bring to the face of a mother who spends much of her waking hours wondering and worrying not about how she will provide Christmas presents for her children, but how she will feed them dinner on Christmas Day. And I can not begin to explain to you the look of excitement and joy I saw on the faces of several young children as they picked out the sweet treat we gave out last December.
As a result of experiencing this back and forth of emotions while volunteering at the food pantry during the holidays, I knew instantly when I saw the idea of a giving (or reverse) Advent calendar on Facebook that I wanted to write about it in my blog and encourage others to participate in this year’s holiday project by creating a giving Advent calendar. Most people are familiar with an Advent calendar, where you do something each day, starting with December 1st, until Christmas Eve to count down the days to Christmas. In our house our two Advent calendars involve hanging an ornament on a Christmas tree each day. The idea behind a giving Advent calendar is that you add something every day from December 1st through Christmas Eve to a box to be donated. So for the food pantry, one would put a food item, personal care item or cleaning product each day in a box ending on December 24th with 24 items to then be donated to a food pantry.
This year, in addition to counting down the days to Christmas with our Advent calendars, my family will be counting up to 24 items in a box. I encourage you to do the same with your family. What you put in the box is up to you. You can diversify, putting in 24 different items or simplify by putting in 24 of the same item. You could pick a theme, like items a family might need in a day or ask your children to pick some of their favorite non perishable foods or focus on items for the homeless. The options are many. Below I have included a list of some of the more useful items that can be included in your giving Advent calendar, and if you are local to me, I would be happy to pick up your giving Advent calendar after Christmas.
Non Perishable Food: canned vegetables, canned fruit, soups, peanut butter, jelly, spaghetti noodles, spaghetti sauce, rice, dried beans, tuna, canned chicken, cereal, instant oatmeal, coffee, tea, hot chocolate, sweet treats
Personal Care Items: bars of soap, toothpaste, dental floss, toothbrushes, shampoo, deodorant, toilet paper, tissues
Cleaning Products: laundry soap, dish soap, paper towels
Baby products: baby cereal, formula, baby food, diapers (especially larger sizes), baby wipes, baby shampoo, baby wash
Homeless Products: single serving cans, items with pop tops, Spam, Vienna sausages, chili, packages of single serve cereal, granola bars, single serve juices, dehydrated soups, plastic utensils, can openers