, Salem, MA

November 21, 2012

Pantries provide turkeys to families in need

By Jesse Roman
Staff Writer

---- — BEVERLY — The line for turkeys was out the door yesterday at Haven From Hunger in Peabody.

“One hundred and fifty people came in to get their turkey today,” said Alyse Barbash, executive director of the nonprofit food pantry. “We were slammed. It was the most in one day we’ve ever had,”

Haven will give out more than 300 turkey dinners, fit with all the fixings, to needy families before Thanksgiving.

The scene was similar yesterday at Beverly Bootstraps, where families lined up before the pantry opened to receive turkey dinners. The community has come up big not only in providing, but even in storing the frozen birds. The pantry has room for 56 turkeys but has had 280 come in the last couple of weeks.

“We have turkeys all over town; it’s actually made us chuckle in a way, but it’s a logistical challenge,” said Sue Gabriel, the executive director at Bootstraps.

Wild Horse Cafe, the Beverly schools, Super Sub and others have donated freezer space to the effort, she said.

Bootstraps will give out more than 500 turkey dinners before tomorrow, said Andrea Jones, the program director at Bootstraps. Last year, the pantry gave out about 480 turkey meals just prior to Thanksgiving.

“It increased last year, and I expect it to increase this year,” Jones said. The biggest reason people need help is they “are underemployed or low-income,” she said.

Thanks to generous donations from other food banks, businesses and individuals, everyone who signed up and needs a turkey will get one this week at both Haven and Bootstraps, the directors said. There are even plenty left over for those who didn’t sign up in advance.

Families will also get stuffing, gravy, potatoes, cranberry sauce, juice, bread and other staples.

“The generosity of the community has been unbelievable,” Barbash said.

It’s been needed.

Barbash said the line for hot meals and to pick up Thanksgiving dinners this year has been a bit longer than in the past.

“I think more people are coming in on a regular basis for dinner and food,” she said. “I’m not seeing a lightening-up of what we do here. I think the government cutting back on food stamps was a huge hit. Some seniors are expected to make do with $20 in food stamps per month. That doesn’t get you very far.”

Hunger has spiked since the global recession began in 2008. Project Bread, an organization devoted to ending hunger in Massachusetts, released a report recently that found that nearly 12 percent of people in the state have inadequate access to enough food. That’s a 43 percent increase since 2008, and the highest rate recorded since the data was first collected in 1995, according to the organization.

As a result, Haven From Hunger now feeds more than 1,000 people and families a month, and the lines at Bootstraps start forming earlier.

“We started a little early because there were so many people in line waiting to get their food,” Gabriel said, about 15 minutes prior to the scheduled 5 p.m. start of the turkey distribution. “The need certainly hasn’t receded.”