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On Philanthropy: This Thanksgiving, carve more than turkey

Bruce DeBoskey, Tribune News Service on

Published in Home and Consumer News

Soon, many of us will gather around the Thanksgiving table with family and friends -- to indulge in an abundance of delicious traditional foods and give thanks for abundant blessings and freedoms.

The upcoming winter holidays are a wonderful and highly anticipated time to connect with loved ones and indulge in a certain amount of excess -- including, for many of us, excessive gift-giving. Holidays can be both the best of times (in terms of social gatherings) and the worst of times (in terms of overconsumption).

This year, Americans will spend close to $680 billion on holiday gifts for family and friends. Adults expect to spend an average of $1,189 each – even though research shows that 70 percent of those same people would welcome less emphasis on gift-giving and spending.

Here are some examples of "discretionary" holiday spending in the U.S.:

More than $9 billion on Halloween, including $350 million on pet costumes.

More than $3.2 billion on wrapping paper.


More than $9.5 billion on gifts that recipients consider unwanted or unneeded.

Holiday spending can seem especially excessive in the context of food insecurity:

-- In 2016, 41 million Americans (including 13 million children) lived in food-insecure households. This means that 1 in 8 of us (and 1 in 6 of our children) lack consistent access to adequate food. Twenty-six percent of us earn too much to qualify for most federal nutrition assistance programs, but not enough to buy healthy foods.

-- Forty percent of the food in the United States goes uneaten. Americans throw away more than 70 billion pounds of food a year. This number does not include the huge amount of produce discarded by millions of backyard gardeners.


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