My favorite part about any holiday is the food, but I especially love Christmas time when my mom makes braciole, bread pudding, and of course an assortment of dainty cookies. I must admit, I often get so caught up in fitting all of this deliciousness on my plate that I forget about those who can't even fill half a plate with good, nutritious food.

Food insecurity is a widespread reality for many people across the world, and we are definitely not immune to it here in America. Although long-term food justice policies are required to solve the problem of hunger, food banks are a great way to provide immediate relief to those in need. If you want to truly give the gift of giving this holiday season, here is a list of East Bay food banks you can lend a hand to:

1. The GaelPantry

Saint Mary's opened its very own food pantry on campus this fall, thanks to Leora Mosman '18 and the Mission and Ministry Center. Donations are always accepted. FYI: Nonperishable items only.

2. White Pony Express

White Pony Express will take just about any food you have - and clothes, toys, books, monetary donations, etc. - but they warmly welcome fresh produce. When you're donating food, make sure to give things you personally would want to eat.

3. Feed My Sheep Food Pantry/Mini-Mart

barbecue, kebab, beef, chicken, meat
Joann Lam

Located in East Oakland, Feed My Sheep is designed so that every patron is treated with dignity - they shop with a cart or a basket, as if they were in any other grocery store. 

4. Alameda County Community Food Bank

Serving the food insecure individuals of Alameda County, this food bank has so many ways to contribute to the cause it's almost embarrassing not to take part - you can even host a virtual food drive. Yes, you don't even have to leave the house to make a difference.

5. Food Bank of Contra Costa County and Solano County

Like in Alameda County, the Contra Costa and Solano County food bank is affiliated with Feeding America. You can donate directly to the food bank or warehouse, or even host a food drive.

6. Oakland Elizabeth House

The Oakland Elizabeth House is found in the former convent of St. Augustine Catholic Church in North Oakland, serving women and children. Make sure to check their donation page to see what kind of items they are in need of.

8. The Urban Farmers

The Urban Farmers are not technically a food bank, but they actually pick fresh produce in people's backyards to be donated to local food banks (they are partnered with #2 on the list, White Pony Express). If you want to get your hands dirty for three hours, taste some delicious home-grown produce, and get a hands-on experience learning how food gets from tree to table, working with the Urban Farmers is a priceless opportunity.

This list is far from comprehensive, as there are many local community churches and seasonal food drives that accept food donations, especially during the holiday season. Further, remember that food banks are only part of the solution and not the end-all fix-all. Hunger and poverty go hand in hand - to fix one, the other cannot be ignored; however, every little bit helps so in the meantime, do what you can this holiday season. Sometimes the best gifts come in small packages.