Food shortages have some Tampa area food pantries giving out ‘paper turkeys’ instead of frozen turkeys

Manatee County

MANATEE COUNTY (WFLA) – Securing the centerpiece for Thanksgiving dinner has been a challenge for some food pantries this year. Supply chain issues have made turkeys in bulk hard to come by.

The Salvation Army off State Road 70 in Bradenton hosted a distribution event Monday morning, handing out more than 500 frozen turkeys.

Director of Community Relations and Development for Salvation Army Manatee County Kelly French tells us they weren’t sure this event would take place this year. Up until last week, the nonprofit only secured about 20 turkeys.

“The amazing thing was with all of the supply chain shortages, we did not know for certain that we were going to be able to get these turkeys. It all came together last week. We received an anonymous donation of turkeys,” said French.

Salvation Army Manatee County has enough turkeys left over to host a free Thanksgiving dinner for anyone in need of a meal. That’s happening this Thursday at noon at their downtown Bradenton location.

Other nonprofits in town weren’t able to secure hundreds of frozen turkeys this year. Founder and president of Hungers End in Bradenton Carl Snyder received something a little bit different this month.

“The frozen turkeys seems to be a little short this year, so we’ve got paper turkeys otherwise known as the $10 gift card. Up to four cards can be given and that really blesses them. They can go shopping and get the rest of the meal that we don’t provide for them here including those frozen turkeys,” said Snyder.

The food pantry at Haitian Faith Church of God was also gifted ‘paper turkeys’ from Mayors Feed the Hungry this year. The nonprofit gave $100,000 in food gift cards to 31 food pantries across Sarasota and Manatee counties. They’re working to collect another $100,000 to distribute ahead of the Christmas holiday.

During a drive with Joy FM, the Mayor’s Feed the Hungry Program received enough donations to provide the equivalent of 3,000 turkeys in Sarasota and Manatee Counties.

Since some of Ronise Dieujuste’s clients at the church do not have cars, she has spent many days purchasing the birds from local grocery stores.

“I work 12 hour shift at night. Eight at night to eight in the morning and when I get off work, I’d be out there shopping for people,” said Dieujuste. “I go to Publix every day, I get two here and get two there. I’ve been busy for the whole week,” she explained.

The folks at St. Joseph Food Pantry in Bradenton consider themselves lucky. They were able to secure 950 frozen turkeys for their annual distribution event.

“We didn’t know for sure whether we were going to get them. We ordered them early, but they said we can’t promise,” said Carole Tiskiewic. “Luckily the good Lord provides and comes through,” she continued.

Many of the families who attended the distribution event Monday morning were working families struggling to make ends meet. St Joseph Food Pantry, like many others across Tampa Bay, are seeing a rise in the number of people in need.

“It kind of breaks your heart when people talk to you. when they say you know, I just lost my job or I just got a new job, but it is not enough to cover for what I lost last year,” said Patti O’Driscoll. “They are playing catch-up and that is hard for any family,” she continued.

The church is hosting another event Tuesday and plans to give out the remainder of their turkeys.

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