For generations, the traditional centerpiece of the holidays has been a sumptuous family feast, both for Thanksgiving and Christmas. A bounteous harvest is an appropriate reason for thanks and celebration. It's hard to place a dollar value on basic food and sustenance, because when it can't be obtained, it affects all other parts of life.

This time of year, it is important to remember that not all people are in a place where an adequate nightly supper — let alone a holiday banquet — is something to take for granted.

Thousands of your neighbors are caught in circumstances in which they are unable to regularly supply themselves or their families with adequate food. In Utah, it is estimated that on any given evening, as many as one out of every seven children goes to bed hungry.

In a society of considerable affluence, that number is as sad as it is shocking.

It is a statistic that would be worse, if not for the common generosity that helps stock the shelves of the many food pantries throughout the state. This is the time of year, they ask for your help in keeping their supplies sufficient. It should be a very hard request to turn away from.

The Utah Food Bank has done commendable work for many years in organizing food drives and overseeing a chain of distribution that ensures the most needy are the recipients of donated food and other items. The organization and its affiliates do not seek to serve a permanent clientele, but to assist those in transitional circumstances.

That category has grown more crowded in recent years, the result of a recession that tossed more people into what social workers call a state of "food insecurity," defined as a "limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods."

The food pantries provide an important kind of safety net — one that allows people to satisfy the most basic of human needs as they work to move into better circumstances. The net remains intact because so many people recognize they have a moral obligation to prevent others from going hungry.

Despite its many successful food drives, the Food Bank has never complained it has too many supplies, or that it can meet all of the demand it sees in the community. As far as holiday traditions go, there is none more nourishing than to offer help to the local food pantries during the time of year when they typically see the greatest need.