Workers unload a truck with food donations at Twelve Baskets Food Bank in Gulfport. This is a busy time of year for the food bank, which serves about 90 food pantries, soup kitchens and other non-profits in Missisippi's southern eight counties.
Jennifer Keegan is the food bank’s director.
"As far as the demand, usually holiday season it's really up," she says, "especially now that it's really cold, the demand will pick up even more, because you have more homeless people who are out. So the agencies try to provide the food to everybody."
Twelve Baskets distributed 2.4 million pounds of food last year, feeding more than half a million people. Keegan says this year donations seem to be down but demand remains strong.
"With the economy, everybody's hurting for what they give, and it just fluctuates from year to year," she says. "We never know what the donations are going to be."
Keegan says that donations of canned meats, especially ones that can be opened without a can opener, are especially welcome this time of year.
The Mississippi Food Network serves 56 counties in the central part of the state. External affairs director Marilyn Blackledge says they feed about 150,000 people a month, through more than 400 member agencies.
"What we try to do during the holidays, all of our member agencies try to have extra food," she says. "The congregate feeding sites get extra food to fix a nice Thanksgiving lunch. The food pantries get extra food to provide holiday baskets to their clients, especially the staple food items."
Blackledge says the organization is on track to distribute about 20 million pounds of food this year. She says the organization is grateful of all donations, but she says because of its ability to buy in bulk, the organization is able to really stretch monetary donations: for every $1 that they raise, they can provide seven meals, she says.
"We're appreciative of monetary donations, we're appreciative of the actual canned items, because I tell people a lot of times, it's just like a puzzle," she says. "If you put it all together, that's what makes us work. If we have the canned food items, if we have the monetary donations so that we can purchase and fill in the other places - that's what makes us work."