MANATEE — Salvation Army officials aren’t getting enough turkeys to serve at the free holiday meals they provide each year, officials said Monday.
The charity, which provides festive dinners to the needy each Thanksgiving and Christmas, has collected only about 75 or 80 turkeys so far, but needs another 150 for Thanksgiving Day and another 250 or so for the Christmas Day dinner, said Jim McKee, food service manager for the Salvation Army.
“With canned goods, we’re in pretty good shape,” said McKee. “I’ve got a small budget, they allow me to buy a lot of that stuff. The biggest thing is turkeys or hams — frozen or fresh, either way, it doesn’t matter,” he said.
The area’s struggling economy has meant more people are turning up at the Salvation Army’s facility at 1204 Tamiami Trail for daily meals, McKee said.
Last year, the agency fed about 500 on Thanksgiving Day, but is planning for 800 this year, McKee said.
“The way our numbers have jumped for the daily community meal, we’re about twice what we were last year,” McKee said. This year, the agency is feeding 300 to 350 during a regular meal.
Other things on his wish list include other canned goods like ham, Spam, tuna fish, chunky soups and other protein-based goods for pick-up bags.
“Campbell’s makes these chunky soups, they’re a meal within themselves, they will feed two to three kids,” McKee said. “We use that for our food bags, people come by and pick up a couple times a month.”
The Food Bank of Manatee, 811 23rd Ave. E., Bradenton, is hoping for more monetary donations to help with transportation costs and upkeep of its facilities, according to Kristen Theisen, vice president of development.
“We have seen a lot for barrels, as far as the food drive, so I think people really do have it on their minds to try to donate something this season,” she said. “We haven’t seen a whole lot in monetary donations, and hopefully between Thanksgiving and Christmas, we’ll start to see more.”
The food bank’s “Stuff the Bus” drive is slated for Saturday and Sunday at Publix stores throughout Manatee County, she said.
The Manatee County School’s Transportation Department will send 14 school buses to Publix Supermarkets, from 9 a.m.-7 p.m. on Saturday and from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday.
“They’ve got volunteers from Tropicana, students and teachers, and food bank volunteers, to be at the stores and invite people to make a donation to help ‘Stuff the Bus,’” said Theisen. Their goal this year: 100,000 pounds of food.
Also planning to distribute holiday food is the food pantry at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, 3100 26th St. W., Bradenton. The church is planning to give food bags to 2,200 families between Nov. 22 and Nov. 24, said Deacon Robert Nimon.
Last year, the church supplied food to about 2,000 families, Nimon said.
To qualify for a food bag, a person must be a resident of Manatee County, and be able to provide a photo identification or another form of identification, such as a Social Security number or an electric bill, he said.
Yet another food drive is slated for 1-5 p.m. Friday at the Sarasota County Fairground, 3000 Ringling Blvd., Sarasota. That drive is sponsored by the Mayors’ Feed the Hungry program, (941) 350-6075.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 745-7031.