US food banks help those in need plan for Thanksgiving amidst a pandemic

People take items at a food bank in New York City on Monday, November 16, 2020.
People take items at a food bank in New York City on Monday, November 16, 2020. © Reuters / France 24

With millions of Americans left jobless amid the Covid-19 pandemic, food banks and charities from New York to Los Angeles have been handing out free turkeys and other produce to help those in need enjoy a Thanksgiving meal this year.


The US holiday, which this year falls on November 26, is traditionally a time for feasting and celebration with family. But more than ever this year, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many will struggle to put food on the table.

At a food bank in New York City on Monday, dozens of people queued up to receive a free turkey and other traditional Thanksgiving meal items.

"As we know, the rates of Covid are rising in the city and so the need is increasing along with that," Leslie Gordon, president of Food Bank for New York City, told Reuters.

"Even before the pandemic, there were 1.5 million residents here across the five boroughs who didn't always know when their next meal was coming from or what it will be. And so that's escalated considerably to nearly 2 million of our neighbours."

For many it is the first time they have had to rely on charity for their Thanksgiving meal.

"It's a little shocking and it's sad. It's sad. You don't think of yourself getting in a line... You don't think you're going to lose your job, but things happen," said Ruth Crawford as she lined up to collect a turkey.

"You have to try to relax and think of the better things, because it wasn't always like this."

Across the country, food banks and charities have been squeezed by rising demand since the pandemic.

In Los Angeles, the local YMCA has been distributing Thanksgiving food baskets to school pupils and their families.

Though the scheme has been running for several years, organisers say demand has greatly increased this year.

Among those lining up on Monday were school representatives, some of whom collected dozens of baskets to distribute directly to children at their schools.

"You know, it's very hard because all the kids are in their houses and it's more difficult for the families," Patricia Saravia, who was collecting 25 food baskets for children at a local primary school, told Reuters.

"And I think this, what they're doing, they do it every year, but this is more important and more significant because some people can't, you know, can't afford or can't have food on the table every day."

The US unemployment rate stood at 6.9 percent, or 11.1 million people, in October. Although the rate is falling, it is still nearly double that of the pre-pandemic level.

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