NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Volunteers for Godtel Ministries in Nacogdoches spent their holiday serving others. The Thanksgiving feast fed both body and soul, according to June Gentry, Founder/President Godtel Ministries.
While millions of Americans will sit down Thursday to one of the most lavish meals they'll enjoy all year, another segment of the U.S. is probably hiding a painful secret.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has reported that as many as 45 million Americans are "food insecure." That's about 17 percent of the U.S. population, up from 14.7 percent in 2009.
"In a struggling economy there are obviously more people having a hard time," said Jean Daniel, a spokeswoman for The Food Nutrition Service. "Parents will go to extraordinary lengths to shield their children from hunger."
Food insecurity refers to a family's difficulty in feeding one or more members due to lack of resources. Sometimes that means not having enough money to buy food, or running out of money before more food can be purchased.
These issues have caused affected households to eat much less than usual or to adjust eating patterns.
It's a growing problem.
Although the number of Americans dealing with hunger has stayed level since last year, the USDA indicates that numbers are as high as they have ever been in the past 15 years.
Programs like Godtel and community food pantries can help supply groceries and assistance to families in need, especially with the holidays approaching.
Thursday, hundreds of East Texans enjoyed a traditional Thanksgiving meal at Godtel Ministries in Nacogdoches, Lufkin, and Livingston.
The organization has been serving East Texas for 35 years, providing shelter, food and clothing to those in need. Gentry said they've served more than one million people since they began operating.
"The majority of people that come to us, they have all sorts of problems you know. So ,we're here with a solution and the solution, of course, is Jesus. That's what we do. The housing…the feeding and the washing of clothes and all that is really kind of just a way of getting people in," Gentry said.
Gentry said Godtel is able to help thanks to the generosity of the community. He said you can help by providing financial donations, clothing donations and furniture, or by volunteering your time. More than 30 volunteers answered the call to service this Thanksgiving.