THE BLOG
11/20/2012 02:25 pm ET Updated Jan 20, 2013

Thanks for Giving

As Thanksgiving approaches, many of us are looking forward to gathering with family and friends around a holiday table piled high with turkey and stuffing, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie and much more. But for too many families in this country the traditional Thanksgiving feast is just a memory, at best, if not an outright fantasy they've never been fortunate enough to experience. According to Feeding America, one in six people in the United States are hungry and more than one in five children live in a food insecure household -- meaning they don't always know where their next meal is coming from.

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, many more families are looking at an empty pantry or relying on friends and loved ones to help ensure that their children have a full belly not just on Thanksgiving, but every day. It is heartening to see the outpouring of public support for those impacted by Sandy. But the issue of hunger in what is one of the wealthiest nations in the world predates Sandy and, sadly, will continue long after devastated communities are rebuilt and damaged homes are restored.

Feeding the hungry is a closely held value in my family and always has been. I grew up in a family of modest means. But even when we were at our lowest points, my mother still managed to deliver food to those in need. To this day, she donates food to the local church and my twin sister volunteers in a local soup kitchen. Hunger is at the root of so many problems in this country. It's hard to teach a class of first graders when they are hungry. And food insecurity leads to childhood obesity, which of course can lead to lifelong health issues. If we can solve the hunger issue, so much will follow from that. Stating the obvious, everyone should have access to healthy meals and no child should go to bed with an empty stomach.

Likewise, at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, food and holiday celebrations have always been a big part of who we are. That is why this holiday season we decided to help raise funds and awareness to alleviate hunger in this country. The campaign, "Martha Stewart's Thanks for Giving Challenge," invites charitable organizations around the country to compete to raise the most money on behalf of their hunger-fighting cause. We are hosting this initiative on CrowdRise, an online fundraising platform founded by Edward Norton and Robert Wolfe that helps charitable organizations maximize efforts and awareness through crowdsourcing.
In addition to leveraging our multiple media platforms to drive awareness and participation, MSLO is contributing a prize pool of more than $50,000 to encourage individuals and philanthropic groups to reach out to their networks and raise funds for participating charities, such as FEED Foundation, Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry® campaign and many others. We're also declaring every Thursday for the rest of the month Give Thanks Thursday on our Facebook page where we're sharing important facts and information from Feeding America to drive a better understanding of the real scope and impact of hunger in America.

The Challenge launched on Oct. 16 and runs through Nov. 27. We've already raised an additional $50,000 that charities like Move for Hunger, a Neptune, N.J.-based hunger relief group, are putting to good use. The organization, which works with moving companies across the country, collecting unwanted, non-perishable food items from those who are moving and delivering it to local food banks, has raised $30,000 since the launch of the challenge. Those donations helped the group to organize 20 new food drives across the nation in November, the most they have ever been able to do in a single month, and will continue to support efforts like the one initiated by two young girls in Monroe, N.C. last month; with Move for Hunger's backing, Kelli Fagala, age 13, and her sister Micah, age 11, were able to transform their idea for a food drive at their school into a large-scale community event at a local grocery store, collecting 9,000 pounds of food that Move for Hunger transported to four local food pantries.

How can you help? If you are already involved with a U.S.-based charity focused on ending hunger in the United States and providing access to healthy, affordable meals, you can encourage your organization to join the competition at CrowdRise.com/MarthaStewart. As an individual consumer, you can donate to any one of the participating charities, or start your own fundraising initiative through the site on behalf of your chosen hunger-fighting cause and encourage friends and family to donate.

If you are not able to make a donation this year, you can still help make a difference. Local nonprofits and charitable organizations, like the ones participating in our campaign with CrowdRise, play an essential role in providing relief to communities across the country. Many of these groups rely on volunteers, and if you aren't able to donate money this year, consider putting in a shift at your local food bank, a frontline resource for the food insecure, or dropping off a turkey like we do in our family every year. According to the Food Bank of New York City, throughout the five boroughs approximately 1.4 million people -- primarily women, children, seniors, the working poor and people with disabilities -- rely on soup kitchens and food pantries.

We hope you'll join us by participating in our Thanks for Giving challenge or by volunteering at a hunger relief organization. Together we can make this a holiday season that everyone can celebrate.

Click here to see the fundraising groups and learn more.

This blog is part of our #GivingTuesday series, produced by The Huffington Post and the teams at InterAction, 92nd Street Y, United Nations Foundation, and others. Following Black Friday and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday -- which takes place for the first time on Tuesday, November 27 -- is a movement intended to open the holiday season on a philanthropic note. Go to www.givingtuesday.org to learn more and get involved.

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