Pandemic presents new obstacles for Thanksgiving celebrations

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Malina Wong

Many will be celebrating Thanksgiving virtually this year to avoid traveling and possible contamination.

From celebrating the holidays to providing for those in need, this Thanksgiving season will not be the same as in previous years.

While the world is amidst a pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urges people to participate in lower-risk activities, such as having dinner with only household members or dining virtually. With the plan for smaller gatherings comes the demand for smaller turkeys; food organizations must also adjust to the increasing number of families in need this year. In addition, 60% of consumers expect a difference in their shopping manner this Thanksgiving, according to Numerator’s consumer survey.

Diana Servin, a cashier at Magnani Poultry, a butcher shop that serves turkeys, explained how the store has been gaining business, with consumer interest shifting away from larger turkeys.

“My boss has been trying to find small turkeys for everybody because that’s what mostly everybody wants. It’s a little bit more of a hassle,” Servin said. “There’s been more people coming this year because now everyone is having a small gathering at home.”

According to Quartz, modern-day turkeys have increased in size since 1966 due to different breeding styles that breeders have participated in ever since. They have also been artificially inseminated, especially in 2014, when 235 million U.S. turkeys went through this process; most could not mate or easily walk.

Richmond Emergency Food Pantry, a food pantry organization, requires clients to bring verification to get food regularly, including their passport, driver’s license, and California ID. They generally distribute the same foods year-round but are giving out gift cards to those who are part of their pantry services this year.

“This year, luckily, somebody donated $5,000, and then we matched it, so we had $10,000,” said Patricia Davidson, the manager at the food pantry. “Now we’re giving out Lucky’s and Food Maxx gift cards for $15, so you can go to the store and buy your own turkey or whatever you need for Thanksgiving.”

Davidson also mentioned that the gift cards can help those needing daily essentials or Thanksgiving items that food stamps cannot pay for.

While Richmond Emergency Food Pantry excludes turkeys from this season’s foods, other food pantries are serving a limited amount of the traditional Thanksgiving foods.

South Hayward Parish has 7,000 to 8,000 families registered. Ralph Morales, the food pantry director, said the pantry encountered more donations this year and is distributing a limited amount of turkeys; however, it offers other forms of meat, such as chicken and roast beef.

“The big difference is we probably have as much food as ever,” Morales said. “It used to be a big day for us; we used to have 100 families a day, four to five days a week. Now, we’re doing up to 200 families a day, four days a week.”

Apart from the differing amount of food South Hayward Parish has experienced, the food bank has also begun pre-packing food instead of laying out choices. According to Morales, this change decreased human interaction at the pantry.

Changes during this holiday season have not only affected food organizations but also family celebrations. Sophomore Nicole Miranda explained how celebrating within her family will be handled.

“Usually, my mother and our family friends make food, and they all bring something and have dinner at my house,” Miranda said. “This year will be my personal, close family, and my aunt, cousin, and his son… because we’ve only been seeing them since COVID started, and they’re part of our bubble.”

The pandemic continues to affect entire communities throughout the Bay Area, ranging from families to those who provide during the holidays.

With the recent surge of COVID and the county moving into a more restrictive tier, we expect more people will need food assistance.”

— Lesia Preston

Ecumenical Hunger Program, a social service organization, is replacing activities that annually occur to accommodate this season’s circumstances. They have Thanksgiving and Christmas food boxes, which include turkey or ham and other side dishes. They are also taking safety precautions regarding protocols and preparation procedures. Lesia Preston, the executive director at Ecumenical Hunger Program, spoke about the changes from this year.

“We will still be offering Holiday Food boxes, but food distribution will continue to be held outdoors using drive-thru lanes. Due to the increase in families needing food assistance and the limited amount of food resources available, we are purchasing more food to supplement the donations we receive. Instead, we may offer gift cards or other alternatives [for Santa’s Workshop]. Santa’s House will most likely be canceled this year,” Preston said.

Although more struggles are present this Thanksgiving, it is essential to take proper steps to keep everyone safe and be considerate of others.

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