Hundreds enjoy free holiday meal prepared by students at 6th annual Kings Cares Thanksgiving Luncheon

people volunteering at kings theatre thanksgiving
Students from Erasmus High School cooked a donated Thanksgiving feast for the sixth-annual Kings Cares Thanksgiving Luncheon on Nov. 24.
Photo by Arthur de Gaeta

The smells of a hot, freshly-cooked Thanksgiving feast filled the air outside the Kings Theatre on Thursday as hundreds of Brooklynites lined up for the sixth annual Kings Cares Thanksgiving Luncheon.

For six years, the Theatre and various community organizations have hosted a free and delicious Thanksgiving meal for New Yorkers who may otherwise have missed out on the festivities. Last week, about 200 people lined up in a heated tent outside the theater to fill their plates with turkey, stuffing, sides and veggies, and even pumpkin pies. The full spread was prepared by students from the Academy of Hospitality and Tourism and the Academy for College Preparation and Career Exploration at Erasmus High School.

kings cares thanksgiving luncheon
Around 200 people received free, hot meals at the sixth annual event, which is a collaboration between the Kings Theatre and a number of local community organizations. Photo by Arthur de Gaeta

“We are thankful to be working with so many generous partners who are essential to making this annual event come to life,” said Kings’ Theatre director of marketing Kate Hesler in a statement. “The Thanksgiving Luncheon gives the community an opportunity to come together, break bread, and support our neighbors who might not have access to a traditional holiday meal, for one reason or another. It’s an honor for us to host this event and give back to Flatbush.”

The Kings Theatre partnered with the Flatbush Avenue and Church Avenue business improvement districts, Erasmus High School, Stop & Shop, and the National Development Council to host the event — with some additional support from U.S. Rep. Yvette D. Clarke and New York City councilmember Rita Joseph. CAMBA, MetroPlusHealth, and the New York City Police Department’s 70th Precinct also chipped in.

kid being fed at thanksgiving meal
The Kings Theatre also collected and distributed gently-used cold weather gear including coats, hats, and gloves for adults and children. Photo by Arthur de Gaeta

“On behalf of Flatbush and Church avenues’ business and property owners, we’re thrilled to continue this Flatbush tradition of offering a delicious community Thanksgiving Luncheon,” said Lauren Elvers Collins, executive director of the BIDs.

Nearly 2 million New York City residents struggle to feed themselves and their families on a regular basis, according to City Harvest, and visits to soup kitchen and food pantries in the city skyrocketed during the pandemic — and have continued to climb in 2022. More than a quarter of households in Community Board 14 — which includes Flatbush and Midwood — earn less than 40% of the Area Median Income, or $40,000 for a family of four. About 20% fall below the city’s threshold for poverty. 

volunteers at kings cares luncheon
Students from Erasmus High School cooked the feast, and volunteers dished out the fresh turkey, veggies, and sides in a heated tent outside the Kings Theatre. Photo by Arthur de Gaeta

Stop & Shop donated the ingredients for the feast, and the Kings Theatre donates the space for the event and oversees operations each year. On Thursday, Erasmus students cooked the meal in a “state-of-the-art incubator kitchen” at the Mangrove in Flatbush Central marketplace. 

rita joseph at thanksgiving event
Councilmember Rita Joseph’s office chipped in to support the event and the councilmember herself volunteered on Thanksgiving day. Photo by Arthur de Gaeta

The Kings Theatre also distributed gently-used winter coats, hats, and other donated cold-weather gear to kids and adults at the luncheon.

“I’ve had the privilege of volunteering at the @KingsBklyn Thanksgiving Luncheon for many years, and today may have been our most vibrant event yet,” Joseph said on Twitter after the event. “I’m grateful for my neighbors, for Flatbush, and for the opportunity to serve you!”