Task Force to shift focus to holiday food boxes

By NIKKI SMITH,

Stores across the country are already stocking the shelves with all things Christmas. The Petal Children’s Task Force board members have the holidays on the brain, too.

This year, Christmas festivities will look a little different at the task force. The board has decided to no longer give out gifts for the holidays, but will instead shift the task force’s focus to providing meals for those in need during the Christmas holiday instead.

The task force is already looking forward to packing boxes for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

The holiday season calls to mind large meals shared with family. However, according to the United States Census Bureau, just under 12 percent of Petal residents live in poverty, which means purchasing the ingredients to make a traditional Thanksgiving meal could be more difficult for some.

The Petal Children’s Task Force is working to put those items in the hands of those who need them.

Demaris Lee, director of the task force, said the Thanksgiving boxes typically contain ingredients to prepare a meal, including flour, sugar, corn meal and cooking oil.

Local churches also aid the task force with donations, but community support is vital, according to Lee.

“We just want to make sure that everyone has a complete Thanksgiving meal,” Lee said.

However, the focus is never just on the holiday. Lee said the task force also stocks the boxes with extras to last throughout the days that children are not in school.

She said they realize that children will have days off school for the holiday, so they will be missing those meals that they would ordinarily be provided while on campus.

This is why the task force also asks for donations of other nonperishable items so that children have enough food to prepare for themselves.

Lee says the goal is to provide them with foods they can prepare without turning on the stove. That way, children have an easy meal that can be safely put together.

While the task force is busiest during the holidays, the group provides meals to those in need year round. Each month, one may stop by the task force for a food box, which contains all the items necessary to create meals for a family.