Thanksgiving Community Meals Promote Community Engagement Through Service-Based Learning
Healthy living begins not with healthy food, but with access to food in general. For many families in western Massachusetts, access to food is made possible by community organizations that run food pantries and serve meals. These organizations – vital to our communities – depend on community support, and rely on donations and volunteers in order to provide the essential services that they offer. This Thanksgiving, families can participate in community service and spread kindness by helping out with a holiday community meal. Community Thanksgiving meals help to offer a holiday celebration to those who may not be able to prepare one on their own or who might not have anyone to share Thanksgiving dinner with, and also offer families an opportunity to engage in an intergenerational holiday celebration with a diverse group of people.
While some community organizations have age requirements for volunteers or require an application process and specific time commitment, some are happy to have families’ help just for one day (or maybe even one hour!) when special holiday meals are being offered. In addition to offering people-power for food preparation and serving, families can help to ensure that such celebrations can take place by donating food (or funding for food) to be part of the meal. Adding to the bounty or helping to prepare or serve the meal is a very meaningful way to give back to your community – not only will you be providing nourishment to folks who might have gone without, you’ll be helping to cultivate community amongst the meal’s attendees and volunteers, while providing service-based learning opportunities for your children.
Families who aren’t able to volunteer can attend community meals to participate in the community aspect of the events. Attending such an event requires a family’s intention to build community amongst those they share their lives with, and participating in intergenerational socializing (and meal sharing) is a perfect way to accomplish this goal. Community meals draw a wide variety of people from all walks of life, and attending such an event affords families the opportunity to connect, learn, and build bridges between otherwise disconnected groups within the community.
To learn more about how to offer community service or to find a community meal to attend, check out some of the events and community resources:
Community Thanksgiving Meals & Volunteer Opportunities:
- Amherst – Not Bread Alone Soup Kitchen offers a community meal on Thanksgiving Day, in addition to weekend and Wednesday meals. Anyone and everyone is welcome to be part of the holiday celebration, or any other meal! Located on the lower level of the First Congregational Church. 413-548-1271. 165 Main Street.
- Chicopee – Lorraine’s Soup Kitchen offers a Thanksgiving community meal at the Knights of Columbus Castle of Knights, and all are welcome! Additionally, the kitchen offers meals to the community every weekday at 5pm, including the day after Thanksgiving. 413-592-5928. 1599 Memorial Drive.
- Greenfield – Celebrate Thanksgiving and support The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts at The People’s Pint’s second annual Thanksgiving for the People. Traditional Thanksgiving dinner will be served at 2pm, is open to anyone and is free of charge. Donations will be collected for The Food Bank. 413-773-0333. 24 Federal Street.
- Hinsdale – The Hinsdale First Congregational Church offers a Thanksgiving holiday meal basket program for local families. Call to sign up for the program, inquire about volunteering, or to find out what to donate. 413-655-2670. 129 Maple Street.
- North Adams – The Berkshire Food Project’s Thanksgiving Meal is held on Monday, November 23rd from 4-5pm, with hot holiday meals for seniors being delivered on Thanksgiving Day. 413-664-9656. 134 Main Street. North Adams, MA.
- Northampton – Located at Edwards Church, the Manna Soup Kitchen generally offers a community Thanksgiving meal, and offers evening meals on Wednesdays and lunch on Saturdays year-round. 413-584-1757. 297 Main Street.
- Springfield – Each year The Springfield Rescue Mission has a Thanksgiving Banquet, serving thousands of meals in the days surrounding Thanksgiving. This provides a place where hungry and homeless men, women and families take part in a family-style holiday gathering, receiving a complete Thanksgiving meal in a warm, loving environment. The Mission hosts a Thanksgiving Meal Delivery, Thanksgiving Community Dinner and a Thanksgiving Community Breakfast. Volunteers are needed and will help prepare the Thanksgiving dining room and serve the dinner meal for residents and the public followed by clean up. They are also in need of food donations. 413-732-0808. 19 Bliss Street.
[Photo credit: (cc) Tom Head]