Thanksgiving just wouldn’t seem right without a turkey roasting in the oven.
But there is a record number of Schenectady County families this year unable to afford the traditional holiday meal, according to organizers with the Concerned for the Hungry Thanksgiving Food Basket Project.
The annual volunteer food distribution effort has received requests for more than 3,100 turkey dinners, an increase of roughly 500 from last year.
“This is the largest request for food that we’ve ever had in nearly 30 years,” said project organizer Bill Smolyn. “To see this number of families requesting help to feed their family is saddening.”
As a result, project organizers are appealing to the community for both food and cash donations. Typically, the organization receives about 120 turkeys, meaning they must have funds to purchase an estimated 2,980 this year.
The estimated cost of the effort can exceed $165,000.
In addition, they’re hoping to collect donations of fresh produce and non-perishable items, including packaged stuffing, canned vegetables, baby food, powdered milk and real fruit juice.
Organizer Carol Smolyn said the increased need among city families seems to be a result of the reeling economy and the nearly 30 percent increase in the cost of food. In addition, she said, government assistance has decreased in many areas, meaning families are even less prepared to contend with recent price increases.
“The cost of food has increased more than our families can afford,” she said. “Imagine the strain for families who are trying to get by working at minimum wage, or $286 per week before taxes.”
Volunteers are meeting at the Keane Elementary School (formerly St. Luke’s), 1252 Albany St., at 8 a.m. today to begin sorting the food donations. They will return at 9 a.m. Saturday so that the boxes can be packed.
Along with donations, the Smolyns are hoping to attract volunteers who can lift the packed boxes. They’re also appealing for volunteers to help distribute and deliver the boxes starting at 9 a.m. on Sunday.
Tax deductible donations can be sent to either Concerned for the Hungry, P.O. Box 119 Schenectady, N.Y. 12301; or brought directly to Keane Elementary. Concerned for the Hungry is a Schenectady County-based nonprofit group that is run by volunteers.