Thousands of families that would otherwise have an empty table on Thursday are receiving boxes filled with traditional fixings and love this Thanksgiving.
Americans have been forgoing eating out and donating the money they would have spent to the Boxes of Love outreach, an annual campaign led by Here's Life Inner City, the compassionate urban ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.
"Boxes of Love are a tangible way to encourage struggling families this holiday season," said Dan Howe, who is leading the national campaign, in a statement.
According to the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture report, the number of Americans who don't have access to enough food reached an all time high last year since it began collecting data in the 1990s. Nearly 15 percent of American households, or more than 17 million people, didn't have enough food to eat at some point in 2009.
Food banks and charities have seen a dramatic increase in the number of people seeking food over the last year.
Lynn Brantley, president and chief executive of Capital Area Food Bank in Washington, D.C, told NPR that they experienced 30 to 200 percent increases of people coming in the door.
To help meet the need of hungry families, Here's Life Inner City has been encouraging Americans to spend one night dining indoors and use the money they would have spent eating at a restaurant to feed a family.
As part of the Dine In campaign, the ministry has provided donors with recipes and suggestions for family activities.
Meanwhile, Here's Life Inner City has partnered with volunteers in 13 metropolitan cities to pack and distribute boxes filled with ingredients for a classic holiday meal, including turkey, stuffing, potatoes, canned vegetables, rice and desserts – enough to feed a family of six. The boxes also contain faith-based reading materials and are distributed through local churches.
Howe highlighted, "[W]hen the box is delivered by local volunteers, it not only meets the immediate physical needs, but it also helps families make personal connections to community churches that care about their needs and offer ongoing help and hope."
Esther Rosato of Brooklyn remembered receiving a Box of Love over 20 years ago by a local pastor.
"I was so touched it overwhelmed me," she said. "Through that outreach I had learned of his church."
She's been attending church ever since and is now a volunteer for the Boxes of Love outreach.