Happy Thanksgiving week. I've been watching as people as people count their blessings by posting what they are thankful for on social media. Some do it every day in November. I even asked friends the question: Why are you thankful? Almost all answers involved being thankful for a forgiving God, family, home and friends. Those are important, good reasons.
But a couple of responses, one public and one private, stood out and really struck at the heart of recognizing blessings and privileges.
One comment came from one of my cousins: "I am thankful because I know that I am blessed. I have food, a good job, a home, a bed to sleep in, a car to get where I'm going, good health, and I have people who love me. I am beyond thankful because there are so many that don't have any of these things."
The other from a close friend: "First and foremost I'm thankful for my sobriety, without which I would not have the rest of life's bounty: family, friends, purpose, a home, and as strong a sense of security as today's world and my personal faith can offer."
The number of people who do not have these blessings in America is staggering. Since many of us will sit around a table with family and friends on Thursday, eat too much and discard leftovers, let's take a look at food insecurity.
Feeding America, an organization that connects surplus food from farms, manufacturers and retailers to 60,000 food banks, highlights the connection of poverty to hunger. As of 2016, 40.6 million people (12.7 percent) live in poverty, according to Feeding America. Many of those hungry are children and the elderly.
Arkansas is among the top 15 states for food insecurity rates higher than the national average of 13 percent. The state is ranked fifth out of 15 with a rate of 17.5 percent. Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and New Mexico are one through four.
Looking closer at two places I have called home, Jefferson and Union counties, large percentages of people have food insecurities. Hunger is real and it is a problem. In Jefferson County, 19,460 people or 26.5 percent of the population have food insecurity. In Union County, 8,580 people or 21.1 percent of the population have a food insecurity. That data is based on 2015 statistics provided by Feeding America.
I came across an online article from a Virginia newspaper based on Farm Bureau Federation data that reported Thanksgiving dinner for 10 adults will cost $50.56, or $5.06 per person, this year. That total is up $6.54 from last year when a similar meal cost $44.02, or $4.40 per person. The survey is based on a menu of turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes, rolls, peas, cranberries, a relish tray of carrots and celery, milk and pumpkin pie with whipped cream. The biggest jump is the a frozen turkey, which averaged $1.57 per pound, up from $1.15 per pound last year – a 42-cents per pound difference.
I bought my Butterball for 98 cents a pound. I'm grateful it was cheaper than what the folks in Virginia will be paying and for the fact I could easily afford it because I know many around me will struggle to buy a turkey, if they manage at all.
Again, Happy Thanksgiving. Be thankful — and please be less wasteful and more generous with food donations to your local pantries.
Shea Wilson is the former managing editor of the El Dorado News-Times. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @SheaWilson7.