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The Chill in the Air

A message from Chief Executive Officer Thomas Reynolds

The chill in the air. The significantly shortened days. The seasonal redecoration of the shop windows. The bubbling enthusiasm of young children anticipating the joys of the gift giving traditions. All around are signs of the holidays.

For many, holiday seasons can be times of great joy—families and fun and tradition and heart-warming moments that fill our memory banks for a lifetime. I remember with spectacular clarity, the smell of turkey roasting in the oven that my mom woke up at four A.M. to prepare for the family when I was a boy growing up in Tacoma. I liked the stuffing the best and could never figure out why anyone would prepare a green salad when the table was crowded with mashed potatoes and gravy, olive trays, steaming hot turkey, cranberries, homemade rolls, and pumpkin pie. I shared my cherished Thanksgivings with my mom and dad, my sister, my gramma, and aunts, uncles, and cousins.

It wasn’t until I was in my twenties, living in San Francisco and working with homeless populations, that I was confronted with how agonizingly difficult holidays can be when one is alone. It was in my thirties when I had children of my own, when I realized that parents who struggled to make ends meet throughout the year faced an even more daunting task to deliver a holiday season for their children that matched the commercially fueled expectations of what “The Holidays” should be.

Needs in Washington are great year-round. At Northwest Harvest, we know this because we distribute healthy food across the state every week of the year, and demand remains constant, unfortunately out-pacing supply. Yet, during the holiday period that marks the end of the year, nutritional needs creep higher while other costs may skyrocket. Heating bills, winter clothing purchases, or unexpected medical costs can send low-income working families and seniors to the brink of financial calamity.

This is why Northwest Harvest gears up during the holiday season. We cannot solve the structural challenges of inequality all at once, but we can ensure that people have access to healthy foods; we can make sure that people who experience poverty can prepare a holiday meal for their loved ones. Everyone deserves that opportunity. My wish is that no one would feel pain and sadness during these special months in Washington. Coming together and supporting those who struggle—we all can play a part in keeping the agony of hunger and the stress of empty cupboards at bay.