For Americans, Thanksgiving is a time for family gatherings around food-laden tables. The meal might include home-grown foods or store-bought items from around the corner. But we need to remember that in many communities around the world, putting food on the dinner table is a major challenge.
Using the criteria of availability, access, stability and use, the United Nations estimates that four out of ten Palestinians residing in refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza are 'food insecure.'
Poverty is a major cause of food insecurity. Six out of ten Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza have fallen below the poverty line, according to the U.N. statistics, making it difficult for families to purchase nutritious foods in the market. After more than four years of closure, frustrated farmers in Gaza are unable to produce much in their fields because of the lack of seeds and fertilizer that don't get through to them. World Health Organization statistics show that nearly four out of ten children under five in Gaza are suffering from anemia and malnutrition.
International NGOs like ANERA that work in Gaza have turned to home garden projects to help families cope. With the supply of a greenhouse, seeds and training, families have turned a small piece of land around their homes into a bountiful garden of vegetables that can nourish the family and potentially provide a source of income. In the camps of Lebanon where land is not available, projects try to help families take advantage of whatever space they do have to grow food for their families -- from rooftops to balconies and window sills.
In other areas like the West Bank, market access is vital to providing food security to a growing population. Better farm-to-market access roads and well-located wholesale farmers markets can bolster a farmer's ability to sell goods to the community. Building the agricultural infrastructure also enables Palestinians to improve their capacities and strengthen their communities. Women who often find themselves the sole breadwinner of the family are finding strength and success through grouping together to form food-related cooperatives -- from beekeeping to herb farming.
Sadly, these efforts are not enough to eradicate hunger and malnutrition. More needs to be done. At a time of the year when we pause to give thanks for what we have, we need to consider how we can help those who have a lot less.