‘No one should go hungry in our city’: Brooklynites pass out thousands of free Thanksgiving meals

Thanksgiving giveaway
Local leaders and hundreds of volunteers prepped and distributed free holiday meals across the borough in preparation for Thanksgiving.
Photo courtesy the Office of the Brooklyn Borough President

Brooklyn was filled with the spirit of the holiday in the run-up to Thanksgiving. As families all over the world prepared for the food-filled holiday, it was all hands on deck as local leaders, elected officials, and support services gave back with food distributions, produce drives, and winter supply giveaways to make sure all Brooklynites had a great meal and some warm duds as the holiday season enters full swing. 

‘No one should go hungry in our city’

On Nov. 17, Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso, food pantry UA3, and the Hispanic Federation handed out more than 50,000 pounds of produce, non-perishables and other food items to over 140 houses of worship, community kitchens and local orgs addressing food insecurity and homelessness. 

The team gathered at Brooklyn Borough Hall and gave away fresh peppers, onions, potatoes and more so those community-based orgs could distribute them to any Brooklynite in need. 

reynoso at thanksgiving giveaway
Reynoso said there is a “long way to go” to ensure no New Yorker goes hungry. Photo courtesy of the Office of the Brooklyn Borough President

“No one should go hungry in our city, not during the holidays or year-round. One warm meal can make an incredible difference in the lives of New Yorkers in need,” Frankie Miranda, president and CEO of the Hispanic Federation.

The holiday season is all about expressing gratitude, and enjoying time with family; however it can be a tough time for Brooklynites who are already struggling to feed themselves and their families, according to Reynoso.

“Thanksgiving is a reminder to slow down, practice gratitude, and enjoy the company of loved ones. However, for many Brooklynites, the holiday can exacerbate the hardships of food insecurity,” he said. “While we have much work to do to ensure that no New Yorker goes hungry any day of the year.”

Brooklyn has the second-highest rate of food insecurity in the city, according to the Mayor’s Office of Food Policy, meaning more than 15% of Brooklynites cannot regularly afford or access enough food. 

An annual tradition

Hundreds of local families picked up the fixings for their Thanksgiving feasts at Reaching Out Community Services’ annual Operation Gobbler Giving in Bensonhurst on Nov. 20.

turkey giveaway reaching out community services
A larger-than-life turkey joined in on the fun at Operation Gobbler Giving. Photo by Arthur de Gaeta

At noon sharp, dozens of Brooklynites lined up along the sidewalk outside ROCS’ offices on New Utretcht Avenue, where the organization had set up tents and tables piled with frozen birds, potatoes, and all the fixings. As they walked through the tent, volunteers filled up attendees’ carts with the goods and sent them on their way. 

The yearly event is funded with donations from the community – and this year, with a little help from the Verrazano Rotary Club, which provided the turkeys.

thanksgiving giveaway
ROCS provided turkeys, veggies, and all the fixings. Photo by Arthur de Gaeta

‘Bringing the community together’ in Coney Island

In southern Brooklyn, the team behind the proposed Coney Island Casino partnered with Gargiulo’s Restaurant, Gristedes Foods, and Brooklyn USA Sports Association to donate more than 750 turkeys to southern Brooklyn churches, non-profits, community organizations to support disadvantaged families.

Various orgs including Coney Island Cathedral, Our Lady of Grace Food Pantry, Jewish Community Council of Greater Coney Island, the Coney Island Houses Tenants Association, Carey Gardens Residents Council, and the Coney Island Community Council split the donations to distribute across the neighborhood.  

“We are proud to be able to work with a group of great organizations in bringing the community together to help more than 750 families this holiday season,” Melissa Gliatta, the chief operating officer of Thor Equities and partner in The Coney project. “It is truly remarkable to see everyone working together to help make The Coney’s first annual Thanksgiving Turkey Giveaway program a massive success in helping those in need.” 

reynoso thanksgiving giveaway
Local leaders and organizations worked together to give out food to those in need.Photo courtesy of the Office of the Brooklyn Borough President

On Nov. 19, the Madison-Marine-Homecrest Civic Association packed three SUVs with shopping bags filled with non-perishable food items and delivered them to the a combined food pantry for nearby houses of worship. 

Liz Morrrisey, president of the civic association, also presented a check to St. Thomas Aquinas and Our Lady Help of Christians churches to purchase additional items with donations from individuals and businesses.

More to come

The generosity didn’t end on Wednesday — a host of community orgs are hosting free Thanksgiving meals on Nov. 23, offering a seat at the table for anyone who might need one. Check out a list of free Thanksgiving day events here