Thanksgiving Demand Doesn't Sour Donations

Despite a struggling economy, local kitchens will be able to provide for impoverished

As Thanksgiving approaches, local food banks and kitchens are prepping to donate hundreds of meals to disadvantaged San Diego residents.

But tough economic times are prompting more people to ask for help.

The San Diego Senior Community Centers have seen a 50 percent increase of meals served per day in 2011, according to its vice president of development Brent Wakefield. The kitchens within the organization serve more than 1,800 meals per day to low-income seniors older than 60. On Thanksgiving, the centers will serve three series of meals throughout the day.

Even with the surge in demand, kitchen efficiency has progressed and it is able to uphold its nourishment standards.

“We’ve actually improved on our nutrition,” Wakefield said. “It’s a basic need and people understand that.”

In order to sustain service with the rising cost of groceries, Wakefield said fundraising is a big priority.

The same is true for Mama’s Kitchen, an organization that provides meals free of charge for people with AIDS or cancer.

“We’ve had to work harder at raising the resources so that the service we provide does not change,” said Alberto Cortes, the executive director at Mama’s Kitchen. “It just requires more work to raise the dollars.”

Cortes said the Mama’s Kitchen pantry has seen a 10 percent need increase this year. Despite the upturn, he said they are able to provide healthy meals.

“We haven’t decreased the quality of the food,” he said. “We’re actually looking to improve some of the food we put out. But all of that requires resources.”

During the holidays, Cortes said there’s also a flood of people who want to volunteer and he said Mama’s Kitchen actually has to turn down volunteers on Thanksgiving.

“There is an increased awareness of hunger around this time of year,” he said. “But hunger is a challenge year-round.”

Father Joe’s Villages also sees an increase in volunteerism during the holidays, said its associate director of community development Ryan Pocock.

The organization has also seen a significant rise in the need for food this year—especially with people who live paycheck to paycheck, said Pocock. One way Father Joe’s has been able to continue serving wholesome food is thanks to the relationship it has with San Diego-based businesses.

“We work closely with food vendors so as to not cut cost or quality of food,” said Pocock.

Father Joe's will serve its 20 millionth meal at its annual Thanksgiving feast on Wednesday.

All three organization representatives said they depend on donations or volunteer efforts from the community. For more ways to help, check out Mama’s Kitchen Thanksgiving bake sale, sign up to volunteer at Father Joe’s Villages or donate to the Senior Community Center’s “Food From the Heart” program. 

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