Each bag, handed out by the Holt Community Food Pantry, consisted of green beans, cream of mushroom soup, cranberry sauce, instant mashed potatoes, stuffing mix, gravy mix, fried onions, a pie crust and pumpkin pie filling, and a frozen turkey—everything needed for a complete Thanksgiving meal.
This is the third year State Farm and the Rotary Club conducted a food drive to provide complete Thanksgiving meal bags to the pantry for distribution. This year, they upped the ante by 50 to bring the total food bags to 200.
Related: see “Having a happier Thanksgiving” and “Thanksgiving dinners donated to pantry”
“We were so pleased to be able to expand the giving by 50 bags,” said Rotary Club member Samma Brannon.
However, they had no idea how difficult it would be to reach that goal in the middle of a pandemic.
“We knew it was going to be more difficult than in previous years because of what the pandemic had done to food supply chains,” she said. “Little did we know how much more difficult it would turn out to be.”
According to Brannon, grain-based food items like stuffing and fried onions are in short supply throughout the country.
“It really left us scrambling,” she said.
Even the turkeys were in question as October rolled into November before grocery stores knew if the birds would be available in the quantities needed. However, Winn Dixie came through in time.
“Winn Dixie made turkeys available at an affordable price,” said Brannon.
According to Brannon, Rotary members spent two weeks shopping different stores to amass the needed bag contents.
“Each shopping trip would yield 10 or 20 of an item, and we stockpiled them at Tiffany Woodham’s State Farm Office,” she said.
According to Woodham, a $20 donation will feed a family of four-to-six people. Brannon said it cost about $4,000 to supply the 200 meal bags.
The pantry distributed the food bags 100 at a time during the two Wednesdays before Thanksgiving. However, finding a place to store 100 frozen turkeys at a time became a happy problem for the food pantry.
“We had to rearrange our freezers to make room for the turkeys,” said Donna Ash, pantry manager. “This was a good problem to have.”
This year, donations were received from Crosspoint Church, Rotary Club of Crestview, Tiffany Woodham State Farm, State Farm Good Neighbor Grant, Mount Ewell Lodge and Walmart.
Additionally, State Farm matched monetary donations as they came in to the office from the community, according to Woodham.
Tammi Dingess with Crestview Rehabilitative Services have provided the bags each year.
“Many individual donations made this all possible as well,” said Brannon. “Individually, we’d like to thank Christy McInnis, Tiffany and Kyle Woodham, Donna Ash and all the staff at the food pantry,” said Brannon. “Courtney Huffstutler and Steven Lenoir were both very helpful in pulling the bags together.”
Crestview Rotary Club members also willingly gave time and money to the project, she said.