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Holiday Helpings Spotlights Growing Need Across the District

Bread for the City celebrated its 30th annual Holiday Helpings program this year by going big. We set out to provide 12,000 families with not only our traditional turkey and holiday groceries – a staple of our food program for three decades – but also a $50 debit card to help defray some of the expenses that add up during the holiday season. With an overall cost of $100 per family, we set out to host our largest Holiday Helpings and to do so back in person, distributing supplies from both of our community centers in DC.

And the community turned out! Every morning, over 1,000 DC residents lined our streets, waiting for their opportunity to pick up these much-needed supplies. The American Farm Bureau projects the average Thanksgiving dinner will cost 20% more this year due to inflation. Additionally, with the continued financial impacts of the pandemic and the looming prospect of a recession, the numbers we greeted each day laid bare the growing, and significant, need of those living on low incomes here in DC. Our initial goal was to raise $1,200,000 to sponsor 12,000 families, but we quickly realized that there was a greater need. In just two days, we had gone through over 20% of our initial Holiday Helpings stock, and by day 13, as we closed the program for this year, we had served 16,000 families.

While the support we provide during Holiday Helpings goes a long way for each recipient family, we can only reduce extreme food insecurity and economic hardship in the long term through collective action for systemic change. This work, too, is part of our mission. Please visit our website to learn more about Bread for the City’s current advocacy campaigns.

We know that in DC and across the nation, Black, brown, and marginalized communities face higher levels of food insecurity. We know that income distribution and racial composition in DC are not one-to-one. In fact, in a city where Black households make up the highest percentage of the population, the vast majority of families below the poverty line are Black households. Food justice is racial justice. Economic justice is racial justice. This year, more than ever, Holiday Helpings underscored this reality.

The services we provide at Bread for the City work to fill the gaps in a city that is not racially equitable. We provide food, clothing, social and legal services, and medical care to a predominantly Black and brown community. Located in DC, which has the highest rate of food insecurity among seniors in the country, Bread for the City also focuses on supporting the senior community, which make up 30%, and growing, of our overall clients.

Thus far, the DC community has raised over $1,000,000 towards this year’s Holiday Helpings program. With this funding, we were able to provide a little joy for 10,000 families before the Thanksgiving holiday. 

But we still need to fund 6,000 families’ holiday bundles. With the total cost of this year’s program coming out at $1.6M, we still need everyone to dig deep and rally support for this vital program. This year, we have so many things to be thankful for, and knowing that we can reach this goal is one of them. 

Every day over the last month, we’ve seen our supporters lead fundraising drives for families, friends, and co-workers. We’ve seen them show up at our Northwest and Southeast centers, packing groceries and helping us with crowds. Our answer is to join us, commit and help achieve our record-breaking goal of $1.6M for 16,000 families.

Learn about the importance of upstream racial justice work from our Board President, Jon Fee, here:

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