Nov 23, 2022

Getting Ahead: Christmas food baskets

Posted Nov 23, 2022 4:31 PM

By Patricia Jones, Alliance Community Task Force: Creating Opportunity

For many years, the churches in Alliance have been providing food baskets at Christmastime to families who need a little extra to make ends meet. A few years ago, United Way of Western Nebraska took over the organization of this project, and here is a review of how it works.

People in the Box Butte County area who need food assistance are asked to fill out an application at uwwn.org before December 5. Their income must be less than 180% of the federal poverty level, with the dollar amount of income based on the size of the family.

Everyone who meets the criteria will receive a food box in December. The goal is to provide a nice holiday meal and to fill gaps of needed items to be used by the family later. Food boxes can be picked up on Sunday, December 18. Disabled or families with other special needs may be able to have their boxes delivered.

Most area churches collect food, and area businesses are generous with their contributions. Individuals who want to donate food are asked to drop items off at St. John's, 2090 Emerson, December 1-12, Monday through Thursday, 8:30 am - 2:30 pm. You will be asked to check the expiration date (no expired food can be used) and to sort the food onto the correct table.

Items requested: boxed stuffing, canned vegetables, canned fruit, gravy packets, boxed meals (hamburger helper, tuna helper, mac & cheese, etc.), dessert mixes (cake or brownie mixes, jello, etc.), pasta sauce, pasta, peanut butter, jelly, canned tuna, canned chicken, canned soup, cooking oil, and cereal.

Along with these items, meat certificates, potatoes, bread, and milk vouchers will be included with the food boxes. These vouchers can be redeemed at the grocery stores.

Monetary donations are needed as well. If your church participates, a designated check may be left with them. Checks may be sent to United Way, PO Box 617, Alliance, NE 69301. All checks should include Christmas food boxes in the memo line. United Way will use this money to pay for vouchers and to order any remaining food needed.

If you buy groceries at Safeway, you've noticed the option of donating at the cash register. In November, Safeway used these Turkey Bucks to provide $50 gift certificates; 95 families received these gift cards for their Thanksgiving meals. Now Safeway is collecting Santa Bucks for gift cards to support the Christmas boxes.

Besides food, St. John's Lutheran Church collects new hats, mittens, gloves, socks, and blankets to distribute to families when they pick up their boxes. These donations can be dropped off at St. John's, 2090 Emerson, Monday-Thursday, 8:30-2:30.

For the last two years, Christmas food boxes have been given to 250-300 families, serving 650-700 people. This year the need is expected to be even greater! If you have questions, contact Karen Benzel, 308-763-6031, or email her at [email protected]

Please be generous as these food boxes help us address food insecurity and provide food beyond a holiday meal to families in our community.