Food baskets reduce Thanksgiving stress for poorby Julie Siple, Minnesota Public Radio
ST. PAUL, Minn. — For most Americans, Thanksgiving is a time of plenty. But for low-income Minnesotans who worry about putting food on the table, the holiday can be stressful.
Tasha Tennin, a mother of five, said she has been fretting for weeks about how she'll provide the Thanksgiving meal her children expect.
"It comes to buying a turkey," said Tennin, a single mother in north Minneapolis. "And then you got to buy all the fixings, and still try to keep money to eat every day. Then the rest of the days throughout the month, I mean, now you're kind of tapped."
She considered taking a couple dollars of her food stamp money to buy Cornish hens and "pretend to have the best."
That changed when Tennin heard she could get a box of Thanksgiving food at her local Salvation Army. The box was packed full of turkey, dressing, canned fruits and vegetables, pie, and mashed potatoes.
"Today when I came here, a lot of stress is taken off of me," Tennin said. "Because I know that day, at least, is taken care of."
Tennin is one of thousands of low-income Minnesotans who will cook a Thanksgiving meal this holiday thanks to local nonprofits. While shelters and churches around the state serve hot meals, the donated Thanksgiving groceries allow families to celebrate in their own homes.
Tennin's food came from the Emergency Foodshelf Network, a Twin Cities food bank which provided 5,300 "Baskets of Hope" this holiday season. The baskets were distributed by 36 food shelves in the metro area and feed up to eight people each.
The Union Gospel Mission in St. Paul, which runs one of the state's largest holiday meal programs, distributed more than 9,000 bags of Thanksgiving food. Each bag feeds a family of five.
The meals help during an otherwise difficult time, said Lynn Fields, a social worker at Salvation Army Parkview in north Minneapolis.
"The people we talk to really just want to have that normalcy, they want to have their family and friends over," Fields said. "They want to be able to invite their parents and grandparents, and not just have them come over for the chili and green beans they can get in the food shelf."
The Emergency Foodshelf Network received requests for 14,000 baskets from food shelves like the one Fields runs, but were able to provide fewer than half that number.
The Twin Cities Union Gospel Mission also saw great need this year, said executive director Ken Peterson. The group planned to provide 8,000 Thanksgiving bags, but raised it to more than 9,000 when people kept signing up.
"We're actually serving approximately 2,000 more people than last year," said Peterson. "The last four years we've seen a steady increase in people in need, and people who want help for the holidays."
Juggling food boxes and diaper bags, Tennin imagines she'll have a picture-perfect holiday with the donated food -- and feed her family for days to come.
"We're not of course gonna eat the whole turkey within one day!" Tennin said. "We're going to have turkey sandwiches, and turkey and mashed potatoes, and turkey stews. So it's going to last."
Julie Siple talked with three Twin Cities mothers who received the free boxes of food from various places around the Twin Cities: Tasha Tennin at the Salvation Army Parkview in north Minneapolis, Crystal Weaver at St. Paul's Neighborhood House, and Cassie Thompson at the Union Gospel Mission, also in St. Paul. To hear their comments, click on the audio link at the top of the page.