With Thanksgiving just days away, many of us are beginning to gather recipes and ingredients for a delicious holiday feast with family and close friends. This is a time of year to pause and reflect on all we are thankful for: loved ones, health, good jobs, a roof over our heads and plenty of food on the table.
But it is also a time to consider those who may be less fortunate. According to the USDA Food Research and Action Center (frac.org), 111,495 (8.7 percent) of people in New Hampshire lived below the federal poverty line in 2013, where 10.2 percent of New Hampshire households experienced food insecurity (not knowing whether they will be able to access enough food throughout the year). Fortunately, there are many wonderful organizations around the capital area whose mission it is to combat hunger and provide quality meals to underserved residents during the holidays, and throughout the year. There are also many ways you can get involved by volunteering your time or donating money or resources. Below is a list of organizations in the capital area that are actively seeking volunteers and donations this holiday season. So, show how truly grateful you are by paying it forward.
∎ New Hampshire Food Bank (nhfoodbank.org), 669-9725
N.H. Food Bank, a program of New Hampshire Catholic Charities, is the only food bank in the state, and thus a vital distributor and supplier to the various hunger relief agencies that serve meals and provide groceries to people experiencing the negative impacts of not having enough to eat.
How to get involved: donate online for the 2014 annual Thanksgiving campaign; make a donation in the name of a friend or family member for the holidays; volunteer your time; or host a food drive.
∎ Capital Regional Food Program (capitalregionfoodprogram.org)
The Capital Regional Food Program is a private, nonprofit, all volunteer organization whose mission is to help reduce hunger in the greater Concord area through distribution of food to inpiduals, families and local agencies. They collect, purchase and distribute about 100 tons of food annually.
How to get involved: Each year the CRFP organizes a Holiday Food Basket Program, which provides over 2,000 families with food for a special holiday meal and about 2-3 additional weeks. This program relies heavily on volunteers to sort, pack and deliver boxes. The program is also in need of food and monetary donations.
∎ Friends of Forgotten Children (fofc-nh.org), 753-4801
The mission of FOFC is to assist children, families and seniors experiencing hardships by helping improve their quality of life through food assistance, self-help training opportunities, clothing and holiday gift wishes.
How to get involved: The FOFC is looking for volunteers to help with telephone inquiries, as well as sorting food and clothing donations. They also distribute Annual Thanksgiving Baskets that have been donated by local groups and organizations.
∎ The Friendly Kitchen (thefriendlykitchen.org), 224-7678
The Friendly Kitchen (2 S. Commercial St.) is Concord’s only soup kitchen serving breakfast, lunch (weekdays only) and dinner (every day).
How to get involved: The Friendly Kitchen is run by volunteers who plan the menus, prepare, cook and serve the food, and wash the dishes. Financial support comes from inpiduals, the faith and service communities, family and charitable trusts, and businesses. Payroll deduction through the United Way is also an option where 95 cents of every $1 donated comes to the kitchen to feed the local community.
∎ Concord Community Holiday Dinner (concordholidaydinner.com)
As in the past, the Grappone Conference Center, the Courtyard by Marriott and the Duprey Companies will provide a wonderful meal on Christmas for those in need in the capital area.
How to get involved: Information on volunteering for the event will be available after Thanksgiving at the event website at concordholidaydinner.com.
∎ The Windmill Restaurant (225-0600)
The Windmill Restaurant on Loudon Road in Concord has been offering free Thanksgiving meals on Thanksgiving day for 25 years. Last year alone, they served about 900 meals, half of which were delivered to local residences.
How to get involved: The Windmill uses volunteers to prep and serve the food, but the greatest need is for drivers to help deliver meals to local residents unable to make it to the restaurant.
∎ Local Houses of Worship
There are numerous houses of worship throughout the capital area that host food and holiday gift drives, as well as provide holiday meals throughout the season. Check with your church, temple or synagogue for volunteer opportunities.
The Capital Area Wellness Coalition meets in the Smile Building on the second Wednesday of each month at 8 a.m. For more information, call 867-8194 or visit capwellness.org.