Carla Hall shares how Gateway to Giving brings people together this holiday season

Carla Hall, photo provided by Marvin Johnson
Carla Hall, photo provided by Marvin Johnson /

Carla Hall and Gateway to Giving make compassion the centerpiece of the holiday table.

As the holiday season builds momentum, Carla Hall understands that the joyous, festive activities around the table may not look the same for everyone. Through the Gateway to Giving via the United Gateway Card from Chase and United Airlines, the program looks to bring a touch of hope this holiday season. While people’s hearts might be full, this program helps to fill those empty tables.

While food insecurity is not a new issue, the plight has gained greater importance. Instead of being that silent face in familiar setting, people see that hunger impacts their communities. From the long lines at food banks to the child who hungers for that free school breakfast, the face of hunger can be someone within a person’s immediate social circle.

According to the USDA, more than 54 million people are susceptible to hunger. Although that number is staggering, the impact that food insecurity has on communities is even greater. It is the reason why programs like Gateway to Giving are vital to building a bridge to a better outlook.

Through this program, Chase and United Airlines have committed to donating $700,000 to Feeding America. With that donation, Feeding America will be able to serve almost 7 million meals over the holiday season.

As the face for the Gateway to Giving campaign, Carla Hall understands that as a chef she is in a unique position to be that voice for social issues. While chefs often use their skills to feed people, they have a strong understanding how food insecurity impacts not just the family table but the community at large.

During a recent conversation, Hall discussed how the holiday season can be the time to think about the unsung heroes who make a difference in people’s every day lives. Even though the holiday season might be un-traditional, there are many ways to make a difference. It is one of the reasons why this Gateway to Giving campaign resonates with her.

Often the holiday season is when many people give back. With such an unprecedented year, that giving back doesn’t have to be in a traditional way. While food pantries are in desperate need of help and donations, it isn’t the only avenue to give this holiday season.

Hall suggested buying some meals from local restaurants. While that purchase helps the restaurant, it can also be a way to give back to others by gifting that food. By thinking of creative ways to help, those small gestures can turn into big changes.

For Hall, she suggested putting the focus on giving people a sense of dignity. Whether or not people can make a monetary donation is secondary. Instead, everyone can share a kind word, a moment at a table or even a gesture of gratitude. While these moments can be more meaningful during the holiday season, they are not limited to just one time of year.

In many ways, Hall believes that knowledge can cause the biggest change. As she mentioned, no one knows who is clicking on that information, but that knowledge can and does make a difference. Each little tidbit can bring about lasting change. It might have been said many times, and will be said again, knowledge is power.

As a chef, Hall believes that all the conversations that happen around a kitchen are vital to change. She said that a meal is a nourishment beyond curbing a hunger. For her, she believes that the table offers a diplomacy and it is hard to have an argument while gathering around a table.

Since she has worked with Feeding America for almost 30 years, she believes that there is something nurturing and loving when someone makes you a meal. As a chef, she wants to bring everyone into the fold and offer that sense of belonging around the table.

Recently, she has taken to connecting with people virtually. From making biscuits with fans to sharing cooking moments with people, that time in the kitchen, connecting over a food is nourishment that lasts far longer than the food created on the stove.

This holiday season, Hall encourages people to take a moment and share something with others. Whether it is sending a meal to a neighbor down the street or spending time with a person virtually, that gift of yourself can help bring joy to others.

The goal, not just during the holidays, is to make connections with people. Since food can be that vehicle to make a connection, it opens the door. How everyone continues that conversation and connection is up to them.

As one year closes and another begins, the lessons learned from this year cannot be forgotten as people look forward. Starting to erase the plight of food insecurity happens one little mark at a time. When people join their efforts together, measurable change will be seen by all.

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For more information on the Gateway to Giving, please visit United Gateway Card Chase website.

Carla Hall is a chef, cookbook author and Food Network personality.

What meaningful food conversation will you start around the table?