The mere mention of Thanksgiving conjures up some of the most delicious food memories.

Just the thought of a special dish can make a mouth water.

A number of organizations in Santa Monica and Venice want to give those same memories to those going through hard times. By adding one or two items to our grocery lists and donating them to these groups, we can help these organizations achieve their goal of bringing Thanksgiving to the less fortunate.

WESTSIDE FOOD BANK —Since 1981, the Westside Food Bank has been distributing food through social service agencies to hungry people. The food bank distributes about four million pounds of food a year, nearly half of which goes to kids.

“The need is up this year and our ability to fill it isn’t going up as needed,” says Bruce Rankin, Westside Food Bank executive director. “It’s been a difficult year for foundation funding and we’re depending on food drives more than ever.”

Rankin says that even though the economy may be improving, people are working for less money and the jobs aren’t giving families full food security. He adds that a breadwinner’s illness can also send a family into a tailspin.

The food bank collects food throughout the year but Rankin says 90 percent of food drives happen at this time of year and he encourages as many groups as possible throughout the community to do food drives.

Rankin says it’s easy to set up a food drive.

“We deliver and pick up food collection barrels — however many a business, church, temple or school might want,” he says. “If there’s a barrel in the office every day for two or three weeks, it’s an incentive for an employee to bring in food to fill the barrel.

“We like it when the barrel gets filled up before a couple of weeks and we pick it up and give them a new empty barrel.”

Santa Monica city employees are in the midst of their seventh annual food drive, called Food Fight, to benefit the Westside Food Bank.

Each city department decorates its barrel and competes to see which can donate the most food, according to Dan Dawson, the Big Blue Bus marketing and public information coordinator.

“We send motivational e-mails and have a pep rally. People like the challenge,” Dawson says.

For his department he says, “It’s one way the Big Blue Bus contributes to the greater community that we serve. It’s sad to think there are children right here who don’t have enough to eat every day.”

The Westside Food Bank accepts nonperishable food that is packaged, so the food won’t get damaged.

An item the food bank is particularly short of, and the only item it accepts in glass, is baby food.

Rankin says peanut butter — in plastic containers — and tuna are most in demand.

Before Thanksgiving, canned ham and vegetables are needed.

Food drives help at Thanksgiving and throughout the colder season, according to Rankin.

“Not having to buy groceries gives people the opportunity to stay in their homes and use that money to pay the rent,” he says.

Monetary donations are also very important and most welcome at Westside Food Bank. Information, (310) 828-6016 x12.

Julie Kirst can be reached at jkmailtalk@yahoo.com

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