It might be hard to get a turkey from the food shelf, but there are at least two free Thanksgiving meals happening this month in central Vermont. One meal is to-go by pickup or delivery in Montpelier, and the other is a free sit-down meal hosted by St. Monica’s Parish in Barre. At the same time, the Montpelier Food Pantry (Just Basics) will not be able to give away as many turkeys as in prior years.
“If we’re lucky we might have a few [turkeys],” said Jamie Bedard, the pantry’s executive director. She said the turkeys have been hard to come by this year. “I’m not expecting to have a full load. It might be first come, first served.”
“The Food Bank ordered 6,200 turkeys. We did not receive a full order because of the avian flu,” said Carrie Stahler, government and public affairs officer for the Vermont Food Bank. “We got 4,652 turkeys to distribute through our network,” she added. Prices were up 20%, Stahler noted. The New York Times reported that a combination of inflation, the avian flu, and pandemic related supply chain shortages have made turkeys harder to get, and more expensive.
Local turkey remains widely available in Vermont, however, especially if pre-ordered. Find one using the Vermont Fresh Network’s “Turkey Finder” at diginvt.com/blog/vermont-fresh-holiday-meal-finder-2022/.
For those interested in a free meal, though, it’s time to make reservations.
On Nov. 20, from noon to 2 p.m. St. Monica’s Parish will host a traditional Thanksgiving dinner served in-house. Seating is limited to 140 diners so they require participants to sign up by Nov. 17 to get a meal. Sign-up sheets are in the church lobby. The meal is “for widows, senior citizens, and people who are unable to get out on their own,” said a person answering the phone at the Parish, located at 79 Summer St, in Barre.
On Nov. 23, National Life Group and Sodexo are hosting a meal for either pick-up or delivery, with both turkey and vegetarian options.
“This is the third year of offering this unique tradition, which began at the height of the pandemic in 2020 after the annual community meal hosted by Washington County Youth Service Bureau was canceled,” according to Daphne Larkin, director of corporate communication for National Life Group in a press release.
According to Larkin, participants must reserve a free meal ahead of time and anyone interested in volunteering can do so by calling 802-229-7300 or emailing email@example.com by the end of the day on Nov. 17.
Pick-up will be from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 23, at two locations:
Outside Bethany Church, at 115 Main St., Montpelier. This option is walk-up.
Outside the National Life Group main entrance, located at 1 National Life Drive, Montpelier. This option is drive-through only. Participants are asked to remain in their cars while volunteers will bring out meals to them.
Delivery to home addresses will be offered on Wednesday, Nov. 23, between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Home deliveries will be a doorstop drop. Please note: Participants requesting delivery are asked to detail any specific instructions for delivery drivers to know where to leave the meal during the signup process.
Community partners include: Bethany Church, Capstone, Chappelle’s, Black River Produce, Hollister Hill Farm, Community Harvest of Central Vermont, Hannaford, Central Vermont Medical Center, Hunger Mountain Coop, King Arthur Flour, Two Sons, Shaws, Cabot Cheese, and Vermont Creamery.
In the spirit of giving, the National Life Do Good Cupboard, located at 58 Barre Street in front of the Montpelier Senior Activity Center, is always hungry for donations.