The celebration of Thanksgiving has long given many people of different cultures a special chance to express their gratitude for the many wonderful material gifts and blessings they enjoy. Here in the United States, Thanksgiving offers many Americans the unique opportunity not only to give thanks but to reaffirm their commitment to aid society's less fortunate members, the poor, who often do not share in the rich bounty this nation yields.
In Orange County, the 1980 U.S. Census revealed that while it is among the nation's most affluent counties, it still showed that 320,000 people are classified as "at risk" of going to bed hungry sometime during each month. A great many of these people are either children or adults over age 65, incapable of providing for themselves.
Aware of the disheartening statistics, many Orange County residents have banded together to feed the poor. One group, originating with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, founded the Food Distribution Center in 1983.
The center tries to salvage as much as possible of the more than 20 million pounds of Orange County food wasted every year due to damaged packaging, surplus or some other defect not affecting the product itself. The food is distributed to local charitable agencies to supplement feeding programs for the hungry of Orange County.
Last year, the Food Distribution Center, located at 426-A West Almond Ave. in Orange, was able to reclaim and distribute 7.5 million pounds of food to the poor, food valued at $7.6 million. This year, the center will be able to salvage even more.
So at this Thanksgiving time, Americans have much reason to emulate the examples of their ancestors and give thanks and rejoice because this nation has been so richly blessed. However, we Orange County residents must recognize the problem of hunger in our society and join the fight to alleviate it. If we do, this Thanksgiving and those of the years ahead can truly become a day of celebration for all.
THOMAS A. FUENTES
Fuentes is chairman of the board of the Food Distribution Center.