By Polly Keary, Editor
The holidays can be the hardest part of the year for the community’s most struggling people.
It is when families without enough money for extras have to do without holiday dinners, when their children have do without the gifts most other kids get.
It’s when those with inadequate shelter feel the combined effects of poor nutrition and freezing temperatures.
The organization that does the most to prevent those hardships from befalling anyone in the Sky Valley is the Sky Valley Food Bank in Monroe, which provides tens of thousands of pounds of food to people who otherwise wouldn’t have enough, as well as Christmas presents for hundreds of kids who otherwise might not get them.
This month, the food bank is in full swing, trying to come up with the supplies, cash, and donations of food and toys to make sure no one has to do without too much through the holidays and the winter beyond.
“As we go into the holidays, we want to make sure that over the course of the winter people have nutritious food to eat,” said Neil Watkins, director of the food bank, last week.
The challenge is a little greater this year than last. It was a tough spring and summer.
“We’ve had months, especially over the summer, where demand has been up 19 percent over the same month last year,” said Watkins. “It varies, but over all, it’s fair to say demand is up, at some points this year substantially.”
The food bank stocks up on turkeys, hams and chickens each year (chickens for Christmas dinner are traditional for many Hispanic people), as well as the trimmings of a holiday meal, well ahead of the season.
Included with holiday meal boxes are potatoes, gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and vegetable, as well as dessert items.
Many of those items are donated. A lot more are bought.
That’s why cash donations are so welcome at the food bank.
“Dollar donations help us purchase the turkey, the ham and the chickens,” said Watkins. “And dollar donations for toys will help us in making sure every child has a present for the holidays.”
In all, the food bank will give away about 300-400 turkeys, as well as hams and chickens sufficient to feed about 1,200 people.
And the food bank will provide toys for about 700 children.
Thanksgiving meal boxes will be given away the Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving, Nov. 19 and 20.
Christmas food and toys will be given out Dec. 17, 19 and 21, the Monday, Wednesday and Friday before Christmas.
Donations can be made online at www.svfoodbank.org, or directly to the food bank at 233 Sky River Parkway in Monroe.