Pre-Thanksgiving Giving: How we can share a little with those who have far less

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World Food Day isn’t a national holiday, but a day of reflection.

With less than five weeks until Thanksgiving, when we give thanks for our blessings, World Food Day is an opportunity to reflect — and act — on helping those whose tables may not be as full as ours.

Americans have always been sensitive to helping people in famine-stricken or war-torn countries. Who doesn’t remember being guilted into cleaning our plates because of starving children in India or Africa? But more people are finding that their service can best apply right here at home.

“We have all sorts of people who come through here,” said Katie Santore, a manager at the nonprofit Share Our Selves food pantry and community services organization in Costa Mesa, a coastal town in California’s Orange County. It’s one of the rare pockets of more traditional values in the liberal, and fiscally ailing, left coast.

From its start by a local Catholic Church in 1970, the SOS food bank has grown into a multiservice operation now supported by donations and funding by the federal government. With 200 to 300 meals served each day, feeding the hungry remains the foundation of its outreach.

“We have working families. We have homeless individuals. We have some people that come here who’ve never needed help before,” Santore told LifeZette.

“Something just happens in their life and all of a sudden they just need some extra help. So we really see every type of person you can imagine come through our doors.”

Some might say that World Food Day hails from progressive roots. Indeed, its website claims the day was founded to celebrate the creation of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations 70 years ago in Canada.

And yet America’s generous, neighbor-helping-neighbor traditions stretch farther back, as Alexis de Toqueville famously noted when he described Americans’ uniquely philanthropic nature and tendency for forming voluntary associations.

One of those voluntary associations was founded by Jeff Lebow and a handful of friends several years ago. The Harvest Club collects surplus fruits and vegetables from residents and serves neighbors in need of healthy food.

“Having residents donate their excess food really taps in to their angel nature. We find incredible generosity among people that have fruit trees,” Lebow told LifeZette. “It makes them feel really good that they’re helping somebody, even if they don’t know them, but other people in their community.”

While job numbers and stalled economic indicators provide little to celebrate these days, a day started abroad to feed those abroad can still grant us an occasion to reflect on those in need closer to home — and inspire us to get involved, through our churches, our communities, and our families.

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