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SLO Food Bank hands out record number of turkeys ahead of Thanksgiving

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The SLO Food Bank and other local organizations are working to make sure that every family in SLO County has a Thanksgiving meal on the table, with a record number of turkeys distributed ahead of the holiday this year.

"We prepared pretty early for our Thanksgiving distribution," said Emily Hansen, operations director at the SLO Food Bank. "I actually ordered turkeys in September. In particular this year, we were afraid of the turkey shortage."

TURKEY DAY Turkeys get unloaded from a food bank truck ahead of Thanksgiving. The organization and its partner agencies distributed hundreds of free birds this year. - PHOTO COURTESY OF SLO FOOD BANK
  • Photo Courtesy Of Slo Food Bank
  • TURKEY DAY Turkeys get unloaded from a food bank truck ahead of Thanksgiving. The organization and its partner agencies distributed hundreds of free birds this year.

The food bank ended up partnering with Grocery Outlet Bargain Market in SLO to purchase enough turkeys to meet the bulk of their anticipated distribution. Over the month of November, more than 2,200 turkeys were distributed through the food bank's dozens of agency partners, and another 300 were distributed through the food bank's direct distributions. Turkeys started going out the door the first week of November, and distribution continued until Nov. 23. In total, the organization distributed more turkeys than ever before, Hansen said.

In addition to the turkeys that the food bank sourced itself, the organization also received some generous community donations. One of the largest came from the SLO County Farm Bureau and Pismo Oceano Vegetable Exchange, which together donated 100 turkeys and more than 4,500 pounds of local produce to the food bank in memory of Hugh Pitts, a past SLO County Farm Bureau board member.

"Each year around the holidays, Pitts would donate a pallet of turkeys to the SLO Food Bank. When Hugh passed away in 2018, the donations were paused," according to the food bank. "Then in 2020, members of the community decided to work together to keep Hugh's holiday tradition alive."

Hansen said it's typical for free turkey distribution to run until the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. But for those who may have missed out on their chance to grab a free bird, there are plenty of other no-cost food options happening across the county on the day before and day of Thanksgiving.

The Grass Roots II Thanksgiving Dinner, for instance, is being held at the SLO Elks Lodge on Nov. 24. The drive-through grab-and-go meals will start getting handed out at noon.

"Knowing that they have a meal there is just so heartwarming," Peggy Fowler of Grass Roots II said. "This is a meal put together by the community, for the community."

Los Osos Cares, which serves a free dinner every Thursday, is giving out a special Thanksgiving dinner at the South Bay Community Center from 5 to 6 p.m. on Nov. 25. Thanksgiving for Paso Robles is happening from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. at the Centennial Park Activity Center on Nov. 25. ∆

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