Donna Brazile: As you feast on Thanksgiving, remember the hungry – Here’s how to help

Thanksgiving is a time to rejoice and be grateful. We have much to be thankful for, despite our persistent national divisions. The United States unemployment rate continues the decline begun in the Obama administration, reaching 3.6 percent unemployment in October. This is well within the range of the U.S. standard for full employment.

This Thanksgiving, millions of families are grateful that our continuing economic recovery has replaced panic with a paycheck.

Yet, too many of our neighbors still struggle. The most recent report finds nearly a half-million Americans are homeless this Thanksgiving Day. They will be sleeping outside, or staying in an emergency shelter, or (the lucky ones) will be in transitional housing.

HUNGER IS A BIGGER PROBLEM THAN YOU THINK AT AMERICA'S COLLEGES

There are even more children who are touched by hunger. America’s children face hunger “more than any other group in the United States.”

A family of four facing hunger may need 35 additional meals a month simply because they don’t have money to buy enough food.

84 percent of households Feeding America serves report buying the cheapest food — instead of healthy food — in order to provide enough to eat.

25 percent of children in households at risk of hunger may be forced to rely exclusively on hunger relief charities like Feeding America to make ends meet.

To understand the magnitude of this issue where you live, I encourage you to go to FeedingAmerica.org, which gives an in-depth look at hunger statistics for each state. You can also research hunger statistics among seniors and our veterans. Moreover, the data makes clear that hunger is a racial equality issue; African-Americans are twice as likely to struggle with food insecurity as white, non-Hispanic households.

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There is no doubt that we are facing a hunger crisis in this country and there are millions who need our help and support. Our hearts are big enough for the task.

As we review our blessings and give thanks this Thanksgiving, I hope you will consider lending a hand to your neighbors who struggle. They live in every village, town, and city — families who work hard every day, care for their children and push them to do better. In addition to all these daily efforts, they struggle to put food on the table.

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Whether it is donating your money, or time, or setting an extra place at your table sometime during this season of thanks, your offerings are precious gifts of kindness.

There are many celebrities who devote time and energy to fighting hunger, among them Rapper 50 Cent, Usher, Justin Bieber, George Clooney, Matt Damon and Christina Aguilera, to name only a few. Won’t you join them?

When we see someone “down on their luck,” we tend to blame them for being jobless or for not saving enough — even though their income may have been barely enough to make ends meet. We blame them even if we understand that the economy — and jobs — have taken over a decade to fully rebound.

We find it’s easier to cast blame and dismiss the problem than it is to work to fix the problem. That attitude can change.

Some are surprised to learn that hunger is often hidden. There are families who are in food-insecure homes. They have TVs and cars. Many who were hurt by the recession have yet to recover. We shouldn’t fault them for keeping a roof over their kids’ heads, even in the face of hunger.

Some folks have the notion that people can’t be food-insecure unless they are totally bereft of life basics. That’s far from the truth. Can we fault food-insecure parents for seeing to the upkeep of their car so they can get to work, or look for work, or run family errands, or go to church?

Today, a TV isn’t just a substitute for movies or concerts, it’s a necessity to keep abreast of pressing news, including weather alerts. Similarly, shelter, clothing and transportation are also basic necessities. People earning $44,000 with four children sometimes find that the only solution in a hard-knocks life is smaller portions at the dinner table.

Federal school lunch programs, subsidized by the government, do not reach everyone. Neither can we afford to cut back on the food stamp program, it’s a lifesaver, a nutrition fixer, for a big portion of America’s hungry.

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I will give thanks this year for my family and loved ones. I’ll give thanks for each one of us who has committed to fight hunger.

It’s one of the many reasons I’m proud to be an American. Happy Thanksgiving!

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