The end of November marks a momentous occasion for many households across the country – when most individuals typically gather around an elaborate feast centered around one bird: the turkey. It is estimated that Americans eat nearly 46 million turkeys each Thanksgiving, reports CNBC.
Most friends and families highly anticipate this time of year to spend with loved ones over menus and spreads that some excruciatingly plan to a tee months in advance or whip together last minute. Unfortunately, this time of year can also bring about more uncertainty for food-insecure families. This is why the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank starts preparations as early as April to help ensure that food-insecure families can have holiday staples, such as turkeys, to anticipate.
Many low- and middle-income families starting to get back on their feet from the pandemic’s economic and sometimes physical impacts are now faced with inflationary prices of essentials. Food prices have gone up 9% in 2022 and 4 out of 10 study participants in LA County reported buying less food this year due to the higher food costs at the grocery store, according to a USC study reporting that food insecurity has spiked after declining.
Price increases here and there quickly add up for those on already-fixed incomes. Many working families are forced to make inconceivable decisions between necessities such as rent, fuel, medicine and healthy food. The same USC study also revealed that 38% of those surveyed bought foods lesser in quality to save money. Opting for cheaper food products tends to be higher in sodium, sugar or empty calories – further perpetuating health issues and the vicious cycle of food insecurity. Alternatively, some families deal with skipping meals altogether. Missing meals is dangerous, particularly for older adults or those on medication, who often are prescribed medication with the assumption of daily caloric intake and young children who need consistent nutrients to continue to develop and grow during their formative years.
Holiday staples, such as turkeys, have also increased in price. In 2021, a turkey was 99 cents per pound; now, prices are nearly double that of $2 per pound. “We have experienced difficulty accessing turkeys this year, especially to the level that we have acquired them for the past two years for Thanksgiving distributions,” shares LA Regional Food Bank President and CEO Michael Flood. “We have pivoted this year to purchase multiple truckloads of chicken to augment the turkeys that we have been able to find this year. We expect the combined turkey and chicken distributions this Thanksgiving to exceed the turkey distributions from last year. That is how we are dealing with the current market conditions, which we have found to be very challenging.”
Thanks to our partner agency network of 600+ other nonprofit organizations throughout Los Angeles County, volunteers, donors, community partners and hunger-relief advocates, the Food Bank is able to reach 800,000 people each month.
Most of the food product flows through our community partners, who have become lifelines for many families and have witnessed the demand for food assistance trend upward. “Pre Pandemic, we saw about 150 individuals weekly; now we see about 300… It’s a lot of working families who come to the Food Bank, just like it’s a lot of working families who participate in CalFresh, which is something we assist the community with as well,” shares Mayra Gutierrez, Case Management Supervisor at the Mexican American Opportunity Foundation (MAOF), a Food Bank partner agency. “With the high cost of inflation, it’s just not enough, so they need extra help. That’s why we’re here, to be able to help them with whatever we can.”
Partner agencies also begin holiday preparations as soon as possible. Gutierrez shares that she and her team start talking about holiday staples such as turkeys as they want to continue prioritizing their community’s needs during the holiday season and beyond.
“The turkey tends to be the biggest and most expensive. We also get asked for stuffing or mashed potatoes, but turkeys are the main request. Depending on the amount we have–we don’t always have enough for every single person here–we do a lottery, and we will distribute turkeys the week before Thanksgiving. That’s what we did last year, we were able to distribute 150 turkeys which is great, and we hope to be able to do that [this year].”
No matter the season or holiday, the Food Bank encourages our community to continue supporting programs that help families that Gutierrez and her team at MAOF help throughout the year.
If you or someone you know is in need of food assistance, please visit LAFoodBank.org/findfood.