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How You Can Help

California food banks rise to the challenge of feeding the hungry this holiday season

By Daniel Wetter

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Scholastic Kid Reporter Daniel Wetter interviews Sister Libby Fernandez, director of Loaves and Fishes in Sacramento, California, November 19, 2008.
Scholastic Kid Reporter Daniel Wetter interviews Sister Libby Fernandez, director of Loaves and Fishes in Sacramento, California, November 19, 2008.

The smell of barbequed chicken, garlic bread, and soup permeated the four-acre compound at Loaves and Fishes in Sacramento, California, last week. The private charity, which was founded in 1983, fed 650 people the day Scholastic News paid a visit. That is 10 percent more than the number of people fed this time last year.

Sacramento is just one of the many cities that has felt the increased need for food banks—along with a decrease in donations. Food banks around the country are starting to feel the pressure of a downward economy and a 6.1 percent nationwide unemployment rate.

This year the Red Cross suffered a 30 percent decrease in donors. The Meals on Wheels Association of America closed its services in California, Texas, and Minnesota.

"I'm afraid at the thought of the upcoming Thanksgiving," said Sister Libby Fernandez, the director of Loaves and Fishes in Sacramento.

About 1,000 people are expected to participate in the second-annual turkey cook-off sponsored by Loaves and Fishes Sacramento Councilmember Rob Fong.

"It's just amazing to give," says Fong. He encourages all ages to help out with food banks during the holidays and the rest of the year.

Good News

Though the Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services has seen a 15 to 20 percent increase in the number of people needing food, the group has also seen an increase in community support, says food bank president Blake Young.

"I just tell people to come out and share the experience," Young says.

The Sacramento Food Bank hosted a Turkey 500 on Thursday, hoping to get at least 500 turkeys. They ended up with almost 3,000, well above what was expected. The first annual Turkey 500 was a way for the Sacramento Food Bank to get turkeys for Thanksgiving.

Kids Give Back Too

Kids also have the opportunity to donate and help with charities. Cara Benson, 12, donated to Loaves and Fishes on Thursday. She gave 130 rolls of toilet paper and said that she comes every year because she wants to give back.

Dani and Ariel Young, ages 10 and 12, volunteer at the Sacramento Food Bank.

"It is a lot of fun volunteering," says Ariel. Dani says that it gives her a warm feeling to serve the needy.

Although the economy is tough right now, many people are still giving and donating to help brighten another person's holiday.

"We are their family," says Sister Libby, noting that many homeless people do not have family support.

To find out about food banks in your area and how you can help, do a quick Web search. Enter the city and state in which you live, and add the search term "food bank."


Read today’s story and answer the following question.

blog it Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on all the things you are thankful for. What are you most thankful for this holiday season?

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