Traditional Thanksgiving staples like turkeys and hams are expected to be quickly gobbled up this year as disruptions to the global supply chain continue.
When Brock Holland, owner of Holland Brothers Quality Meat and Catering in Duncansville, wanted to order 60 cases of turkey breasts in anticipation of the Thanksgiving rush, he could only get three.
“You have to prepare, go ahead” Holland said. “If you haven’t figured it out by now, it’s probably too late.”
Persistent supply chain issues plague all kinds of turkey products, whether fresh, frozen, whole, portioned, from a grocery store or a meat distributor. According to Mel Kepner, owner of Kepner’s Grandview Meats in Altoona, most of the turkeys sold this year were actually produced last year and stored in warehouses. The problem is getting these turkeys out of storage and distributing them to stores.
âEvery supplier we deal with has warned to plan ahead because the turkey will be in short supply. “ said Kepner. âThe cost of transport is really the main problem because there are not enough truckers or people on the docks.
Kepner, however, has the guarantee of fresh turkey through his business deal with a Mennonite farmer. Last year they crossed 500 turkeys and expect to do 15-20% more this year, Kepner said.
“We are lucky because we are dealing with a local guy”, said Kepner. “I met this guy and shook his hand every year for six years.”
Kepner advises buying a turkey early and being flexible about its size.
“Don’t expect to go out on the Tuesday or Wednesday before Thanksgiving and expect to find the size of turkey you are looking for” said Kepner.
Food banks, churches and other nonprofits planning to hand out Thanksgiving dinners have largely not been affected by the food shortage, mainly due to donations from the community.
U.S. rescuers in Hollidaysburg would not have been able to buy enough turkeys to feed the number of people they usually welcome during Thanksgiving without programs like Feed a Friend at Martin’s, the organization’s co-director said. , Deborah Lavalla. . When COVID-19 first hit in 2020, its organization grew from 200 families per month to 600.
“If we were to rely solely on our budget, we wouldn’t be able to afford 200 turkeys at $ 35 each,” said Lavalla. “Every little bit counts. It might be a few cents or a few dollars on their end, but it goes a long way on our end.”
Even with the help of the community, Lavalla still had to shop for turkeys to get a good price.
“We have already received our turkey and turkey breast orders in advance because we know things are getting harder and harder to come by.” said Lavalla. “We always have to plan ahead, plan early for the vacation rush, but this year we had to plan really early.”
People use the pantry less because of the temporary increase in food stamps, Lavalla said. Because that increase has since exhausted itself, she expects rescue workers in the United States and other organizations like this to be hit hard in November.
“We have already received calls about the holiday season”, said Lavalla.
On Thanksgiving Day, the group will hand out a full meal package as well as a Thanksgiving dinner, according to Lavalla. It will also provide turkey breasts for those for whom a whole turkey might be too much.
Rescue workers in the United States aren’t the only place Blair County residents can go to receive a free Thanksgiving meal. Sister Paula’s soup kitchen will host a free Thanksgiving drive-through dinner, with each car receiving one meal per occupant. They will also be entitled to gift bags containing homemade fudge, apples and oranges, according to President Penny Chlebowy.
The soup kitchen volunteers will spend the days leading up to Thanksgiving preparing sides, baking pies, carving turkeys and packing takeout containers. Since the start of the pandemic, the number of regular diners at the soup kitchen has grown from about 110-130 per day to about 300. For this reason, organizers are preparing 250 Thanksgiving meals.
For those in the soup kitchen, the main challenge isn’t how much prep it takes to cook hundreds of Thanksgiving meals, but not being able to serve them in person.
“The most important thing is that people are sad that they cannot cook our meal in person”, said Chlebowy. âWe like to serve people.
Fortunately, the soup kitchen has not been affected by the supply chain issues. According to Chlebowy, members sign up to provide various items and ingredients for the meal.
The downtown church will also be hosting its first Thanksgiving Community Dinner on November 23 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. In partnership with Blair County Food Drive, it’s free and open to the public with no registration required. In-place and take-out dining options will be available.
“What I want to emphasize is that it is open to everyone” said downtown church senior pastor Jim Kilmartin. âAnyone who wants to connect and wants to have a meal with other people, this is a great opportunity. “
They cook meals for 500 people, Kilmartin said. To do this, the congregation will be in charge of cooking the turkeys, while several businesses in the region give side dishes such as corn, stuffing, mashed potatoes and applesauce.
“I think we are lucky enough with the hearts of the people here in the community who want to help us feed the city,” said church administrator Amy White-Detwiler. “So it wasn’t too hard to get things.”
According to Kilmartin, church members renovated the church building and cleaned up the community hall so that it could be used to host the dinner. They hope it will become an annual event.
“It’s a love story” said Kilmartin. âWe call it a Thanksgiving community dinner because everyone is involved. Everyone is invited.”
However, those in the downtown church are no strangers to distributing large amounts of food. During the shutdown, which began around April, they secured grants that enabled them to serve over a million pounds of food to the community.
“We did this in the parking lot because the building was not finished” said Kilmartin. âSo we learned to be resourceful while continuing to serve.
At Champion Life Church, members will hold their 13th annual citywide Thanksgiving Dinner on Thanksgiving Day. According to Associate Pastor Devin Spradling, dinner is free and requires no registration. On-site and take-out meals will be available.
“This is an opportunity for us to serve those who not only might not be able to have a Thanksgiving meal, but also those who might not have anyone to celebrate with.” Spradling said.
This year the church is preparing 175 meals and has not reported any issues getting the items needed to make it happen.
âIn the 13 years that we’ve never had to budget, we’ve relied solely on donations from individuals and businesses in our community. Spradling said. âThey are always working together to make it a success. “
All of the organizations that responded to the Mirror for comment pointed out that their Thanksgiving dinners are open to anyone who wants a free meal, regardless of their financial situation.
“People are reluctant to take advantage of our services because they feel that someone else might need them more” said Lavalla. “You often hear this: ‘Well, I didn’t come because I thought someone else might need it more.'”
Mirror Staff Editor Rachel Foor is at 814-946-7458.
How to help
For more information on community dinners available for Thanksgiving or to donate or volunteer, contact:
* Deborah Lavalla, Hollidaysburg American Rescue Workers, 814-695-0762, Donation Depot, 811 Scotch Valley Road.
* Penny Chlebowy, Sister Paula’s Soup Kitchen, 716-807-4684.
* Jim Kilmartin or Amy White-Detwiler, Center City Church, [email protected]
* Devin Spradling, Champion Church, 814-942-9400, mychampionlifechurch.com under the events tab.