By Gwenn Friss Cape Cod Times
No one needs to go hungry this Thanksgiving, but they may not be able to feast on a traditional turkey dinner.
"We closed our turkey sign-up two weeks early because we already had 600 requests for full turkey dinners from our existing clients," said Christine Menard, executive director of the Family Pantry of Cape Cod in Harwich.
The Family Pantry of Cape Cod received two truckloads of food Monday morning, including stuffing, for the Thanksgiving dinners that are prepared annually for clients. The pantry had to stop accepting sign-ups for dinners two weeks early this year because of the increased demand on the Cape.
The increased demand comes as no surprise. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting unemployment, one in 11 Massachusetts residents struggles with not having enough food. On Cape Cod, the rate is 1 in 8 people, according to numbers compiled by Feeding America, a national anti-hunger organization.
On the Upper Cape, the Falmouth Service Center expects to provide about 750 Thanksgiving baskets, each with a turkey and all the fixings, including a foil pan to cook the turkey in.
"Falmouth families can sign up until Friday by phone at 508-548-2794," said Kerin Delaney, the center's executive director. "Any family who registered for Thanksgiving last year (2019) or the year before (2018) will automatically qualify. If they are new to the process, they will need to fill out paperwork."
Falmouth Service Center is also providing Thanksgiving baskets to "several hundred military families," Delaney said, based on nominations from officers at Joint Base Cape Cod.
Although turkeys are only available to Falmouth families, the service center’s drive-through grocery pickup remains open four days a week (10 a.m. to noon Tuesday, Thursday and Friday and 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Wednesday) to anyone in need, no matter where they live. Anyone who is hungry need only provide their name, date of birth, ZIP code and number of people in their family.
"We have bags of prepacked breakfast, lunch and dinner staples," Delaney said. "We are also providing milk, eggs, cheese, meat and fresh produce that is all added the morning of pickup."
In Hyannis, the Community Action Committee of Cape Cod & Islands is accepting requests for turkey dinners through Thursday. Call 508-771-1727 to register.
The Cape Cod Culinary Incubator has partnered with KAM Appliances in Hyannis for the second annual Great Cape Turkey Take-out. The effort will feed 70 Hyannis-area families this season, up from 20 last year. Donation requests are listed at capeculinary.org.
Efforts to provide cooked meals continue, but some are being waylaid by the pandemic and concerns about spreading the virus to older people and other susceptible populations.
"I am very sad that we cannot safely (feed) 1,300 people, which is what we did last year," said Charles "Tad" Peavey, who co-owns Brax Landing Restaurant in Harwich Port with Jeff Gomes.
It is the first time in 27 years that Brax Landing will not be providing free Thanksgiving meals for dine-in or delivery from Truro to Sandwich. Peavey said people have called and are upset by the news.
"We can’t even do the takeout and delivery because it would take 50 people to prepare that many meals and we would be (working) elbow-to-elbow," he said. "The state just won’t allow that. What if we did it and someone got sick?"
Jeni Wheeler, director of Faith Family Kitchen, said that during the holiday week, there will be Thanksgiving food used as part of the free takeout dinners the kitchen provides three times a week in Hyannis. Details are available on Faith Family Kitchen’s Facebook page or at capecodcouncilofchurches.org.
COVID-19 has also limited what people can donate. Volunteer organizations are taking precautions not to accept food donations except for frozen turkeys to avoid spreading the virus.
Falmouth Service Center is collecting donated frozen turkeys only from noon to 3 p.m. Nov. 22 at the center at 611 Gifford St., Falmouth.
The Community Action Committee of Cape Cod & the Islands and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul have both requested grocery gift cards so those in need can buy their own Thanksgiving meals. Donations may be left at Community Action Committee of Cape Cod & Islands, 372 North St., Hyannis, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Volunteers request that donors ring the doorbell and wear a mask.
Society of St. Vincent de Paul donations may be mailed in care of Christ the King Parish, P.O. Box 1800, Mashpee, MA, 02649.
Both the Falmouth Service Center and Family Food Pantry in Harwich have cancelled their annual toy drives. The organizations instead are asking for gift cards or books to be donated for Cape children.
"It’s sad, but food is our priority," Menard said.
Gwenn Friss can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @dailyrecipeCCT.