By the end of 2020, the U.S. reached a record high unemployment rate of 13% according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. As the 2021 holidays draw closer, millions of families are still feeling the effects of losing income during the pandemic. If you’re worried about how to afford Thanksgiving dinner this year, you’re certainly not alone, and there are organizations locally and nationally that offer free Thanksgiving turkeys to those in need.
With 10.5 % of U.S. households experiencing food insecurity during 2019, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, not every family was in a position to splurge on a lavish holiday meal. Add in the 2020 pandemic, and the numbers look even more serious. One study from Northwestern University found food insecurity has doubled for U.S. households because of COVID-19’s effects. Now, about those free turkey resources...
First, it's important to get your ducks in a row as early as possible — or turkeys, in this case. You'll want to contact these groups in plenty of time before Thanksgiving Day so you can ensure there's a turkey for you to claim, as well as work out all the details for picking it up or getting it delivered. Keep in mind that some turkeys are distributed the weekend or week before Thanksgiving, so you don't want to wait until the last minute. Plus, it may take a bit of investigation to figure out where your turkey is coming from, so give yourself plenty of time to get the details sorted. Bearing these tips in mind, here’s where to get a free Thanksgiving turkey for your holiday this year.
Local Food Banks
If you're not sure where your local food banks are, head to FeedingAmerica.org. There, you can get the information for food banks in your specific area, along with addresses, phone numbers, and websites to get in touch. (There’s also a state-by-state guide to local food pantries if you need more choices, thanks to FoodPantries.org.) Give them a call or stop in to get the details about their Thanksgiving donations. If one of these food banks can't help, they can surely point you to other local orgs that can.
“We have a few options for folks in need of support this holiday season,” Southerlyn Reisig, Director of External Communications for United Way Worldwide, tells Romper via email. “Generally speaking, people who are in need of food or other resources should contact 211 to find programs available to them. And around the holidays, people can reach out to their local United Way for more information about special meal options."
Local Religious Organizations
If your family attends a local church, that's another excellent place to inquire about free turkeys. If you're not a member of that specific church, don't let that discourage you from reaching out for help. Many churches and temples hold food drives in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving specifically for this purpose, and you may even be able to get some side dishes, too.
Meals On Wheels
If an elderly member of your community needs a meal this Thanksgiving, contact your local Meals on Wheels organization. Because all Meals on Wheels programs operate independently, as a representative tells Romper, click the “Find Meals” tab on their website to learn more about your local program’s offers for Turkey Day.
Local Meal Programs
Sometimes known as soup kitchens, meal programs offer prepared hot meals at little to no cost, according to Bustle. The Homeless Shelter Directory provides a state-by-state list of soup kitchens (and food pantries and food banks) near you.
Find A Turkey Drive In Your Area
Many cities offer large turkey drives around the holidays. For example, the Operation Turkey program aims to provide 45,000 free Thanksgiving meals for families in 2021. Chances are, a similar organization is providing turkeys in your community.
Check Your Local Organizations
And finally, look into what local organizations are up to this holiday season. The senior center down the street or a nearby high school may have something set up, so ask around and keep an eye on your local news sources for holiday help info.
There's no reason to feel ashamed if you're unable to afford a movie-ready Thanksgiving feast this year. You're certainly in good company, and once you start looking, you may find that many people and organizations are more than willing to help you enjoy a beautiful meal with your family, because you deserve a happy holiday as much as anyone else.
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