By now, the last of the Thanksgiving leftovers have been consumed and we're ready to turn our full attention to the upcoming Christmas holidays.

For many of us, the holidays involve more eating, from Christmas cookies, cakes and pies to office parties to family meals on Christmas Day.

For too many people in the Brazos Valley, though, the holidays are pretty much like the rest of the year: a scramble to find enough food to feed the family.

It may be hard to believe in this land of plenty, so many of our friends and neighbors throughout the area are food insecure -- they don't know where their next meal will come from. Imagine going to bed hungry, not knowing if you will have anything to eat tomorrow. It is especially hard for parents who struggle to make sure their children have enough to eat.

Our Brazos Valley Food Bank estimates that one in every five residents of this area are food insecure. As startling as that is, About one-third of the children in the Brazos Valley are food insecure -- your own children probably know many of them and go to school with some of them. Another third of the food insecure in this area are senior citizens, 60 and older, many living alone without family or friends.

The statistics are startling and distressing, but they are just numbers. Hunger in the Brazos Valley is people. They could be members of your church or people you work with every day. They could be the parent who has to decide whether to pay for a child's needed medication or put food on the table. They could be the older couple down the street or the young mother struggling to pay bills in the wake of a divorce. They might be our nation's veterans trying to cope with physical or emotional injuries earned in defense of this country.

They are not nameless, faceless numbers. They are real people, living among us and hurting every day. We must not turn away.

We are blessed here in the Bryan-College Station area to have our Brazos Valley Food Bank. For nearly 35 years, the staff and volunteers have worked tirelessly to end hunger in the Brazos Valley. The food bank has grown over the years, moving into new headquarters that quickly became too small for the needs of the community.

The food bank doesn't distribute food directly to hungry people. Rather, it partners with more than 40 agencies and pantries to distribute the food. The food bank has worked to improve the nutritional quality of the food it distributes, adding more fresh fruit and vegetables -- much of it sourced locally -- to its offering. The food bank distributes U.S. Department of Agriculture commodities and food generously donated by H-E-B and other grocers.

But the bulk of the food comes from the generosity of the people who call the Brazos Valley home. While donations of food and money always are appreciated, they are particularly appreciated at the holidays.

For 24 years, since then-station manager Jim Baronet created the first Food for Families food drive, KBTX-TV has sponsored the most incredible food drive this area ever has seen. Each December, KBTX personnel and a host of volunteers spend the day -- rain or shine, hot weather or bitter cold -- accepting donations of food and money. It is a magnificent effort, one that deserves the support of everyone in the Brazos Valley.

This years edition of Food for Families is Wednesday, with the main drop-off location at the Brazos Center, 3232 Briarcrest Drive in Bryan, and satellite locations throughout the area. People are invited to drop off food throughout the day. While almost any food in unopened packaging is appreciated -- no frozen food or homemade goodies, though -- there is a particular need for foods rich in protein, such as tuna fish, peanut butter and macaroni and cheese. Baby food always is appreciated, as are nonfood items such as child and adult diapers, paper towels and toilet paper.

Other needed items include canned or dried beans, canned vegetables, canned meats, family size and individual cereal, cereal bars. chili, coffee, flour, canned fruits, shelf stable fruit cups, granola bars, jam and jelly, individual size juice boxes, ketchup and mustard, poptop cans of vienna sausages, oatmeal, shelf stable pudding, rice, ravioli, pasta, sugar, soup and bottled water.

Food for Families can be a great teaching tool for your children, education them to the need to give back to others. Explain the problem of hunger to your children and take them shopping with you and help them pick out items to donate. Take them with you to the drive on Wednesday so they can see the wonder that is a community coming together to help fellow residents in need.

Dozens of volunteers will be at the drop off points to take the food from your vehicle, Volunteers will sort the food on site and box it up for delivery to the food bank, or the local pantries in each county.

Last year, almost 178,000 pounds of food were donated during Food for Families, and some $144,000 was donated -- which is used by the food bank to purchase items needed to fill the shelves as needed.

Times and locations of Wednesday's Food for Families are:

• Brazos Center, Bryan, 5 a.m. to 7 p.m.

• Navasota Valley Electric Coop in Franklin, 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

• Hearne Railroad Depot in Hearne, 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

• St. Mary's, Lady of the Lourdes Catholic Church Hall in Caldwell, 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

• Mid-South Synergy in Navasota, 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Thank you to the good people at KBTX and to the hundreds of volunteers who will work so hard to make the 24th annual Food for Families drive another success. And thank you to everyone who donated food or money on Wednesday.

The people receiving assistance from the Brazos Valley Food Bank will appreciate your help.

And so do we.

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