The Thurston County Food Bank plans to distribute as many as 5,000 Thanksgiving food baskets to local families in need next Monday.
But first, officials need the community to donate a whole lot of turkeys.
“Quite honestly, that’s our biggest need,” Judy Jones, operations manager for the food bank’s client service center, told The Olympian on Monday. “And the sooner they get to us, the better.”
Last year, nearly 4,000 households registered for a free holiday food basket — about 800 more than in 2014 — prompting the food bank to make a special plea for more turkeys. Donors stepped up and helped alleviate some of the shortage of turkeys for the food bank, which had purchased whole chickens to ensure that each basket had a bird.
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This year, turkeys can be dropped off between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. through Friday, and between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday, at the Food Bank’s main location, 220 Thurston Ave. NE, Olympia. If there are leftover turkeys after the baskets are distributed, they will be given to local families in need at Christmastime, said executive director Robert Coit.
Some grocery stores offer free turkeys after a purchase of a certain amount. Some employers give away turkeys to their workers as a holiday bonus.
Some people might find a $10 frozen turkey at a store and decide that’s a reasonable donation, Jones said.
“There are lots of different ways people get a turkey,” she said, “lots of different ways to think about that.”
Cash donations also are welcome. The food bank usually gets a bigger bang for the buck with its wholesale connections, but frozen whole turkeys are an exception, Coit said.
That’s because turkeys are usually marked far below cost at supermarkets as a tool to draw in customers, he said.
“They can’t sell them to me at that price,” Coit said.
On Saturday, about 500 volunteers will gather at the food bank and its distribution center near South Puget Sound Community College on Mottman Road to put together the food baskets.
“It’s very organized,” said volunteer Robyn Malmberg.
She said she enjoys the event because it demonstrates how a community can come together with donated food from their gardens and kitchens so that families in need can enjoy a traditional holiday feast.
The food bank already has enough volunteers to fill and sort the baskets, but it still needs volunteers to help deliver those bags of food to its satellite locations in rural Thurston County and community organizations that it’s working with, such as Head Start and Behavioral Health Resources, Coit said.
“It’s a nice example of consolidation,” he said. “Rather than everyone making baskets.”
After the Thanksgiving giveaway, the nonprofit will begin one of its busiest times of the year: food drive season.
“If people are looking for volunteer opportunities, we do have opportunities in December and January,” Jones said. “Big events coming up.”
For more information on volunteering, donating or receiving services, go to thurstoncountyfoodbank.org or call 360-352-8597.
Thurston County Food Bank will distribute its Thanksgiving baskets — which will include turkey, squash, stuffing, pie filling and other basics for a holiday meal — from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, Nov. 21, at its downtown location, 220 Thurston Ave. NE, Olympia. No sign up or proof of income is required, although people are asked to bring a photo ID and a piece of current mail, if possible.