PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Thanksgiving is next week, and the coronavirus pandemic has left thousands of Rhode Islanders in need of food.
Local non-profits tell 12 News they’re seeing a significant increase in the number of families reaching out this year, many of which have never contacted them before.
Jessica Berkhoudt, a commanding officer at the Salvation Army, kicked off the 7th annual Turkey Run in East Providence Friday. She said the Salvation Army has teamed up with East Commerce Solutions and Shaw’s to feed more than 13,000 people this Thanksgiving.
Berkhoudt said they are donating turkeys and Thanksgiving baskets to local non-profits in the area, such as the Salvation Army locations in both Pawtucket and Providence, where they will be distributed to those who need them.
“With this pandemic and the employment strain and childcare strain and financial strain, the insecurity for food stability has grown tremendously, we have seen our numbers just in our providence location triple in a month,” Berkhoudt said.
Rebecca Keister, a director at Meals on Wheels of Rhode Island, said their organization will serve Thanksgiving meals to 1,300 senior citizens across the state.
“A full thanksgiving meal with turkey, mashed potatoes, butternut squash, apple crisp, they are so appreciate of the food,” Keister said.
Keister said the pandemic has left many seniors not only without food, but without company.
“We are serving homebound Rhode Islanders,” she said. “The vast majority of our clients, 63% live by themselves and our delivery driver is the only person they see on a regular basis, it’s vital for their mental health.”
Heather Holstrout, executive director of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, said this Thanksgiving they will be providing for 500 families in Newport County.
“We have received letters weekly, more than ever, people that are homebound, quarantined just really appreciating all that we do,” Holstrout said. “Last year we went out about thirty times in our mobile pantry, but this year in 2020 we have gone out almost 120 times.”
Salvation Army of Pawtucket is distributing 600 turkeys and 600 baskets, that they received from the 7th annual Turkey Run.
Little Sisters of The Poor in Pawtucket is distributing 30 turkeys and 30 baskets, that they received from the 7th annual Turkey Run.
Child & Family said due to COVID-19, this year they cannot accept physical food, food basket, gift or toy donations, but are instead collecting Stop & Shop and Walmart gift cards or monetary donations for their clients.
Salvation Army of Providence is giving out 650 turkeys and 650 baskets, that they received from the 7th annual Turkey Run.
Boys and Girls Club of Warwick is giving out turkeys and Thanksgiving baskets to existing members.
The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center Thanksgiving food pantry is open Nov. 18-24, though registration ended Nov. 10. The holiday food drive with Santa’s workshop runs Dec. 14-18, and another one without Santa’s workshop will take place Dec. 21-23. Residents must register to receive a time slot to visit the pantry. Those who want to donate to the MLK Community Center online.
Greater Providence YMCA is giving out 450 turkeys and 450 baskets, that they received from the 7th annual Turkey Run.
Boys and Girls Club of Providence is giving out 100 turkeys and 100 baskets, that they received from the 7th annual Turkey Run.
East Providence Senior Center is giving out 20 turkeys and 20 baskets.
Meals on Wheels of Rhode Island is giving out over 1,300 meals. Residents can call (401) 351-6700 to speak to someone about their services.
To kick off the Rhode Island Community Food Bank Holiday Drive, Stop & Shop representatives delivered 1,000 frozen turkeys to the food bank. Residents can donate to the RI Food Bank online.