Attleboro area groups and food pantries have found price hikes and supply shortages proving quite the challenge in their quest to provide food and Thanksgiving dinners.
A prime example was the ninth annual Friends of Foxboro Veterans delivery of Thanksgiving dinner meals to local veterans, where organizers at the last minute discovered their supplier couldn’t deliver turkeys and they were forced to hand out gift cards instead to 110 veterans.
The volunteers learned Friday the supplier, Stop & Shop, was unable to deliver 200 turkeys because of supply issues, having had to limit the number of turkeys per purchaser.
The gift cards, intended for the purchase of turkeys at the supermarket, were delivered Saturday morning.
“The people should be able to buy their turkey,” lead organizer Jim DeVellis said.
Costs for the mission doubled from what the volunteers initially raised as the supermarket was going to provide the turkeys to the group at cost.
“We had to buy all the cards,” DeVellis said. “We tried all area grocery stores and the prices were either way out of whack or they didn’t have more than a few for groups. It was not Stop & Shop’s fault, but between Friday and Saturday morning we heard the same from all the stores, everyone is in the same boat.”
The desperately-needed last-minute donations came from residents and O’Donnell Brothers Homes of Foxboro, which made a donation for every local home sold.
“Our good friends came together and made up the difference,” DeVellis said. “We live in a great town that understands community and what the veterans have done for us and we rolled with it. It worked out."
At least this year, veterans homes were visited. Last year, because of the pandemic, veterans and/or their families had to pick up their turkeys at a central location.
The effort served 10 more veterans than last year but DeVellis, a former selectman, speculates that may not be so much a sign of a growing need but because more have heard of the meals.
Also in Foxboro, the annual Turkey Brigade was in full force this weekend, with volunteers Saturday compiling 2,000 Thanksgiving dinner baskets and Sunday delivering them to area homes.
Run for about three decades through the Personal Best Charity, volunteers raise funds for the project, which organizers say continues to see a growing need each year.
For other area groups, more in-person Thanksgiving dinners are being held this year after many only offered home-delivered meals last year because of the pandemic.
Impact of shortages
Organizers of the dinners also say rising prices and shortages have made this year quite a struggle.
The Moose Lodge in Attleboro expects to again serve over 100 people from noon to 2 p.m. Thanksgiving Day at its hall at 241 Thacher St. after only home-delivered meals were available last year that will also be offered this year.
“Costs have definitely gone up, it basically doubled,” said Danielle Saccone, one of the volunteer cooks and organizers.
“We had some fundraisers, gotten donations from people. They were very generous. I think everyone realizes costs have gone up and were willing to help out.”
Anticipating the poultry shortage, the lodge put in its turkey order two months ago.
“We had to beg and borrow as a lot of places are, but we have been stockpiling stuff,” Saccone said. “Morin’s Catering helped out and people stepped up. We’re good so far, right on track. We knew it was going to be tough so we started earlier this year.”
The deadline to sign up for meals is Tuesday by calling 774-331-2836. However, lodge members say they won’t turn anyone away unless they run out of food.
“The past week the phone’s been ringing off the hook,” Saccone said.
More are signing up for the in-person dining. Last year, roughly 430 meals were delivered.
A lot of people are happy with the return of the hall dining, Saccone said. “We’ve got quite a few inquires, usually a lot of homeless. Last year everybody was stuck in their houses. It will be nice to see the same faces back from the prior year. A lot of people count on it. Generally it’s the same people every year.”
The Norfolk Grange at 28 Rockwood Road (Route 115) is holding its fifth annual Thanksgiving dinner from noon to 3 p.m. Thanksgiving Day.
“It is a little tougher with food shortages to find what is needed,” organizer Kevin Roche said.
Area food pantries have seen their deadlines pass for signing up for pickup turkey dinners, and some weren’t offering them this year because of rising prices and shortages of turkey.
All say the need for food assistance has been on the rise with the pandemic and economy.
That is surely the case at the Hebron Food Pantry in Attleboro.
"This year has been extremely busy with the need of food increasing and now the holiday we are struggling to keep food on the shelves. Although we always make it work one way or another," executive director Carissa Phillips said. "COVID is still effecting our community greatly, we have seen approximately a 30% increase of clients during this holiday season. My guess is that there are not a lot of people working right now and are not getting extra help from food stamps or unemployment any longer so people are struggling.
"Because of food shortages and price increases we have been struggling to keep even our staples stocked on the shelves. Clients food stamps don’t go as far as they used to and so the need is greater here at the pantry," Phillips said. "Thanks to our community and the many food drives that have been taken place we have been able to provide to our clients."
The pantry has helped ensure local families have a pleasant Thanksgiving.
"We were very grateful to be one of many organizations to have received a very generous donation from Personal Best Karate that donated 170 Thanksgiving baskets to our clients, and on top of that we had a total of 194 turkeys that we were able to pass out to the families not receiving a basket from PBK," Phillips said. "We still have clients calling in asking for additional help for the holiday."
Over in North Attleboro, the town’s food pantry, run by the board of health at town hall, so far has been able to meet growing needs, officials say.
“Not surprisingly, our guest list at Lenore’s Pantry has greatly expanded during the past two years due to the COVID pandemic and ensuing difficulties in the economy,” said Joan Badger, the town’s human service coordinator. “Food shortages and price increases are not yet impacting us, as our community has opened their hearts to our families.”
Lenore’s doesn’t distribute prepared Thanksgiving dinners, but is giving out to those who signed up by the recent deadline nearly 200 turkey roasting pans with all the fixings for a complete meal, as well as gift cards to purchase turkey and fresh produce.
The turkey pans came through the generosity of donors, including The Cliffs neighborhood, North Star Real Estate, Personal Best Karate, and North Attleboro Junior Football League, who collected the items and put together the turkey pans, Badger said.
The Norton Food Pantry, also know as the Cupboard of Kindness, is run out of the town hall building.
“We have seen a slight increase in the number of people registering with us over the past few months, but some individuals have been able to find employment, or received assistance elsewhere,” director Gloria Barker said.
The pantry routinely serves about 50 families a month, and has withstood the food price increases and shortages.
“Thanks to the generosity of many local organizations and individuals, we are able to offer everyone a good supply of items,” Barker said. “The only item we are unable to offer this year for the holiday is a turkey, which is in short supply everywhere.”
In Mansfield, the picture is similar at Our Daily Bread pantry, located at 15A West St., next to the Congregational Church and across from the South Common.
“Last year we saw a huge surge in need for our assistance due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Crissy Goldman, one of the coordinators. “That increase in our numbers has continued and so we continue to serve more people.”
Local families received turkey dinners through the Personal Best Charities Turkey Brigade, she noted.
“The higher price of food and the shortages in certain foods does mean that we must allocate our monetary donations differently than in the past and that our dollars do not go as far as they used to,” Goldman said. “We always welcome monetary donations and donations of non-perishable food. We are fortunate that the Mansfield community has continued to be generous to the pantry throughout the pandemic as we work to meet the needs of our neighbors.”
Not seeing as much of an increase in need is the Foxboro Food Pantry at Bethany Congregational Church.
“The need has remained pretty consistent with the amount of households receiving food assistance last Thanksgiving,” Lisa Downs of the pantry said.
The pantry has been providing food for about 175 households.
“We are fortunate to have phenomenal support from the Foxboro community, so donations have actually slightly increased since last year,” Downs said. “We also have a great relationship with the Boston Food Bank and have volunteers from the Foxboro Lions Club who pick up the food that we receive from them monthly. So, we have not really experienced any detrimental factors related to the food supply and costs.”