These programs provide free Thanksgiving food and meals for low income families. All these charitable groups are working to provide Thanksgiving support for those who need it this season.
Thanksgiving is an exciting holiday – but it can be very stressful.
It is a time to bring friends and family together. It’s nice that, compared to other holidays like Christmas or even Easter at this point, there is no expectation of gifts or over the top decorations.
However, there is a standard of a large meal, often for a large group. And, as we all know, food is expensive. Buying lots of food for lots of people can be very expensive.
When your budget is already tight, the pressure of providing a big Thanksgiving meal – or even just a few parts of the meal – can be overwhelming.
We all have good years and bad years. There are many organizations that are available to help families that need extra help around Thanksgiving and the holidays.
If you find yourself having a good or bountiful year, these organizations are a great place to reach out and offer to donate your time or money.
If you need extra help this year, I hope that these organizations with Thanksgiving programs are able to help you.
Need help with Christmas? Here are 12 Christmas Assistance Programs and details on each.
Where are they giving out free turkeys for Thanksgiving?
I volunteer with my local Junior League, and a few years ago I was in charge of the committee that read grant applications. We gave out some grant money, but mostly offered a lot of eager volunteers to help run programs.
I was really surprised to see how many local organizations in our area gave out turkeys and other food items for Thanksgiving and Christmas. We got a dozen applications for funds or volunteers to help to distribute the food.
That’s to say – there are a lot of organizations that give out free turkeys for Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, they are unlikely to seek you out. So, you need to reach out to them to see how you can qualify for the Thanksgiving assistance.
Thanksgiving Assistance Programs List
This is a list of some nation-wide Thanksgiving Assistance Programs. There are many local programs – google “food baskets for needy families near me” to find places that help with Thanksgiving dinner in your area!
The Salvation Army
Salvation Army locations each operate independently and have their own programming. Here are some examples of Thanksgiving Day programs from Salvation Army locations near me:
- Thanksgiving Grocery Baskets – food basket provided by the food pantry the week of Thanksgiving.
- Hot meals on Thanksgiving day – more of a buffet style pre-cooked meal on Thanksgiving.
- Bill pay assistance – there are more bills than just food on Thanksgiving. If you are having trouble keeping the lights on, the Salvation Army can help.
Most Salvation Army locations require you to show proof of residency in their area. It’s good to call ahead to be sure.
Your Local Food Bank
Your local food bank is your best bet for free Thanksgiving dinners. They often give away free frozen turkeys and boxes of sides and accompaniments.
In addition to providing meals, food banks are usually excellent sources of information. They are often a hub for their community.
There is probably a bulletin board or program coordinator who can direct you to other programs in your area that might be able to help you.
Local Religious Organizations
In my experience, a lot of local churches and synagogues give out turkeys and meals for Thanksgiving. You do not need to be a member to benefit from them.
Many local organizations offer a hot buffet-style Thanksgiving dinner in lieu of boxed food to take with you. This can be a great option if you don’t have a kitchen to cook in or don’t have anywhere to spend the holiday meal.
You can ask around for locations that might be offering meal programs. Often, places that have food banks on site are most likely to offer gifting programs around the holidays.
Meals on Wheels
If you are homebound, Meals on Wheels will bring a meal to you.
Their Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner programs are separate from their regular weekly programs. So, if you just need a meal for the holiday, you can call or register for a meal online.
An alternative idea if you don’t need a free meal but would like help with your meal, is to look for coupons. Many grocery stores offer big coupons and even free turkeys around Thanksgiving and Christmas meals.
For example, last year the Big Savings mailer had a coupon for a free frozen turkey at Sam’s club with the purchase of three items on a list.
Some grocery stores with rewards cards allow you to accumulate points in October or November that you can redeem for a free Thanksgiving turkey.
I recognize that spending money to later get a coupon might not work for everyone, but it might be an option for some.
Did I forget any other organizations that offer Thanksgiving help and Assistance Programs? I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving!