For 27 years, the God’s Pantry Food Bank Sharing Thanksgiving program has provided a traditional Thanksgiving meal to families facing hunger. After months of work that includes processing referrals, acquiring all of the products needed to make up the full meal, packing boxes, delivering to homebound individuals and seniors, and setting up a safe distribution, Sharing Thanksgiving boxes were placed in the hands of program participants throughout the Thanksgiving week.
Sharing Thanksgiving operated in a very different way this year due to the pandemic, but with a lot of creative thinking and the help of some dedicated individuals, 5,800 families in Fayette, Floyd, Laurel, and Rowan Counties are able to share with loved ones all the ingredients needed to set their tables with a traditional Thanksgiving meal.
Preparation for Sharing Thanksgiving began with Basket Brigade, an event that normally takes place in early November and is designed to be a fun and engaging way for individuals to support the Sharing Thanksgiving program. Basket Brigade gathers friends of the Food Bank together to pack the thousands of meal boxes we need for the Thanksgiving food distribution. While we had planned to host Basket Brigade in both Lexington and London, an escalation in COVID-19 cases required both events to be modified at the last moment. Thanks to the help of the Kentucky Army National Guard, the boxes were packed efficiently and quickly.
Not only did box packing have to change this year, but distribution was also modified in order to keep staff, volunteers, and recipients safe.
The first arm of our distribution efforts took place the Saturday before Thanksgiving, when volunteers from Imani Missionary Baptist Church, Immanuel Baptist Church, and Highlands Baptist Church were joined by the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office and the Lexington Police Department to deliver to homebound individuals in Fayette County. Sharing Thanksgiving boxes were delivered to the doorsteps and front porches of residents who weren’t able to pick up their boxes themselves. Additional boxes were delivered by Food Bank staff and several Partner Agencies as well.
Southland Christian Church once again generously allowed us the use of their space – a location so large that we were able to easily maintain effective social distance – while serving every family through a curbside distribution method where no one was required to exit their vehicle. A similar system was used at the Laurel County Cooperative Extension Service offices in Laurel County, and at our facilities in Floyd and Rowan Counties.
Through these first two distribution efforts 5,500 of the Sharing Thanksgiving meals reached those in need of a nutritious meal. During the week following Thanksgiving, our distribution contingency plans ensured the final 300 Sharing Thanksgiving meal boxes reached families facing hunger so they, too, could share a meal with loved ones.
Many of you supported us in new ways this year. For the first time we offered the opportunity to register as a virtual participant at our Sharing Thanksgiving Basket Brigade events, and we also introduced the Sharing Thanksgiving Virtual Food Drive. While we look forward to coming back together in the traditional ways, some of these new ways to support our work will continue into the future, giving you more choices for how your busy family fights hunger.
Sharing Thanksgiving saw many changes in 2020. But one aspect of Sharing Thanksgiving remained unchanged and at the center of our collective efforts. Each family participating in the program received a box of ingredients, including corn and green beans, cranberry sauce, stuffing mix, cornbread mix, and other items. Each box was paired with a turkey, butter, eggs, onions, and potatoes, providing everything needed for a traditional meal for 6-8 people. Thank you for keeping the impact and outcome of this program at the center of your engagement.
None of this would have been possible without the continued generosity of our sponsors.