Roasted turkey, glazed ham, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, stuffing, buttered rolls, cinnamon-laced applesauce, baked macaroni and cheese, cranberry sauce, and hefty helpings of gravy and pie will adorn many Thanksgiving tables tomorrow.

The mere mention of these delectable dishes leaves one salivating and easily explains why the average American household looks forward to this annual guilt-free day of excess. But Thanksgiving also is about community. Its earliest origins involved American Indians sharing the harvest and families coming together to build relationships.

Consider the Mayflower immigrants. By the fall of 1621, almost half of those original 102 people died due to illness and insufficient nutrition. American Indians came to their rescue, showing them how to properly cultivate the land and grow crops. Those actions were key to the foreigner’s survival and that same year they celebrated their first successful harvest.

What can we learn from that example?

While most of us will have a comfortable and filling Thanksgiving, many are facing the fact they cannot afford a meal, let alone a holiday feast. For them, cranberry sauce and buttered rolls are a luxury. Mashed potatoes and green bean casserole aren't a possibility, and Turkey is a distant memory.

If there is one time of the year to ponder the troubles of others, Thanksgiving is it. As the average household sits down to a feast, there are too many people with nothing to serve. Food pantries are under-stocked more than ever before and the former middle-class has become a new daily patron. COVID-19 has made the hunger situation far worse than it has been since the Great Depression.

Area food pantries are always looking for staple items: canned tuna or chicken, soups and stews, rice, pasta, canned vegetables, cereal, oatmeal, canned fruits, tomato sauce, peanut butter, fruit juice and dehydrated milk. This year, while making holiday food purchases, consider buying these items too and taking them to the local food pantry.

There is a food bank in nearly every locality. Here are the ones found with a quick Google search:

  • Feed More/Central Virginia Foodbank, 804-521-2500, 1415 Rhoadmiller St., Richmond
  • Chesterfield Food Bank, 804-414-8885, 12211 Iron Bridge Rd., Chester
  • Colonial Heights Food Pantry, 804-520-7117, 500 Southpark Blvd., Colonial Heights
  • Downtown Churches United, 804-722-0321, 827 Commerce St., Petersburg
  • Hopewell Food Pantry, 804-530-3546, 903 W. City Point Rd., Hopewell

Many community groups, churches and charitable organizations are conducting food drives as well. With a simple act of participation, you could help a struggling family put meals on the table this holiday season and give homeless individuals shelter and food. That's the recipe that warms the heart while we enjoy filling our tummies.