Food pantries around the Twin Counties have been busy for the last two weeks helping their neighbors in need prepare for Thanksgiving.
Many food pantries held turkey handouts Saturday for hundreds of families and seniors on both sides of the Hudson River.
Since last Saturday, Matthew 25 food pantry in Catskill handed out 110 turkeys and triple the number of bags full of fixings and desserts, including mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, ingredients for green bean casseroles and caramelized apple pies.
“The heaviest work is on Friday, when you have to unload the truck,” Matthew 25 Executive Director Patti Dushane said. “We had bought 5,000 pounds of food.”
More than 12,000 pounds of food were collected and an additional 4,600 pounds were donated by local troops of the Boy Scouts of America to Matthew 25 before Thanksgiving.
“It’s a lot of work,” Dushane said. “But our clients are good people. Some of them are working two jobs and just need a little extra help making ends meet. We have people that are $15 short of receiving DSS [Department of Social Services] assistance. We have senior citizens. Every one of them has a story, and I am fortunate enough to hear them.”
Some food pantry volunteers said the need is steady compared with years past. Others said the need has grown or is trending downward — depending on where you are in the Twin Counties.
At the Cairo Food Pantry, 125 families were served this year from the annual turkey handout.
“The number has declined,” director Stacey Poulsen said. “I think that’s because the economy is doing a little better. Five years ago we were severing over 200 families at giveaways.”
While some food pantries require proof of residency in their town or school district, many do not have income requirements.
“We had one client come in to the pantry that hadn’t been in well over a year,” said Alaine Thorne, a volunteer at the Ghent Food Pantry since 2009. “He had recently lost a job. We’ve had people say they have unusually high expenses. We don’t inquire about too much about anyone’s personal life. You don’t have to be on social services to get here, even thought they will refer people or bring in a person in need. We don’t ask a lot of questions.”
At Matthew 25, clients can select their Thanksgiving dinners from a menu, so they can pick and choose which side dishes they want. At the Cairo Food Pantry, visitors receive a Hannaford gift card to put toward their turkey and receive bags full of sides to prepare at home.
Jill Wishon, director of the Salvation Service Center in Hudson, said clients are able to shop at the Salvation Army. Clients have a choice of turkey, ham, potatoes, yams, applesauce, peas, carrots, beets and other favorites.
“We just let them shop so they can pick what they need,” Wishon said. “It saves them and us from giving away something they don’t want. Today [Tuesday], we had all sorts of produce to give away.”
The Salvation Army in Hudson has completed handing out Thanksgiving meals to prepare at home this year, but they will be holding a Thanksgiving-style dinner on Wednesday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at 40 S. Third St.
Most of the Salvation Army’s food arrives through donations from local grocery stories, such as Hannaford, ShopRite, Aldi, and Walmart. But the nonprofit is raising money through its annual bell-ringing campaign to cover the cost of its Thanksgiving and Christmas meals and regular weekly meals.
The Salvation Army hopes to raise a third of its operating costs, or $61,000, through the bell-ringing campaign. Volunteers are needed, and can call 518-822-1602 to sign up.
“That is how we support ourselves,” Wishon said about the annual campaign.
Helping people on the holidays can bring tears and smiles, Wishon said.
“You get to see how many families are actually in need in our area, but you can also make a difference in somebody’s holiday,” Wishon said.
Some food pantries, such as Catskill’s Matthew 25 and the Ghent Food Pantry, will grant last-minute Thanksgiving meal supplies ahead of the holiday. Check with your local food pantry for more details.
“At least I know that when I sit down to dinner, they will also be sitting down to a nice dinner as well,” Dushane said. “Nobody should go hungry on Thanksgiving.”
A list of Greene County food pantries: https://regionalfoodbank.net/agency-list-by-county/greene/.
A list of Columbia County food pantries can be found here: https://regionalfoodbank.net/agency-list-by-county/columbia/.
To reach reporter Amanda Purcell, call 518-828-1616 ext. 2500, or send an email to email@example.com, or tweet to @amandajpurcell.