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After over a year of socially distanced celebrations, many of us will return to gathering around a table loaded with turkey and all of the fixings this Thanksgiving. But others won’t be so lucky. In fact, a statewide survey conducted by the nonprofit Hunger Free Colorado in April indicated that one in three individuals—33 percent of Coloradans—are food insecure, a problem worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s why individuals and organizations are working to ensure all community members receive the healthy sustenance they need throughout the holidays.
“What we’re trying to provide is a sense of dignity, letting people know they are worthy and loved,” says Judy Cauley, director of business development for Kitchen One for One, a nonprofit that serves between 400 and 1,200 no-cost or pay-what-you-can meals weekly at rotating locations across the Front Range. This year, the organization will dish out more than 500 Thanksgiving meals for Sox Place, a safe space for young adults living on the streets, and Christ’s Body Ministries, a homeless shelter.
Meanwhile, chef Tajahi Cooke and his wife Danielle—owners of Ms. Betty’s Cooking— will continue their Harvest Madsgiving event, which fed nearly 3,000 individuals in 2020. With the help of the Salvation Army and chefs Oscar Padilla (Toro Latin Kitchen) and Forest Rager (Watercourse Foods), the Cookes plan to make between 5,000 and 10,000 Thanksgiving meals at kitchens inside Zeppelin Station and Avanti Food & Beverage and in a mobile cantina to distribute at shelters and churches in Denver, Lakewood, Grand Lake, and other cities. “These Thanksgiving meals, to me, are a bit of hope for each and every individual who gets them,” Tajahi says.
While filling bellies over the holidays is important, Kitchen One for One co-founder Chris Kitcullen hopes Coloradans keep in mind that food insecurity is a problem year-round. “Anything you would like to donate will help us feed our neighbors in need throughout the year,” he says.
Here’s how you can pitch in this Thanksgiving season (and even after all of the leftovers are gone).
What they need: The resources to provide elevated Thanksgiving meals (think: Taj’s jerk chicken and honey pumpkin pie) for 5,000 to 10,000 people, including donations of money, food, and volunteer time
Who it helps: The Cookes feed individuals at the Salvation Army, Urban Peak, Volunteers of America women’s shelter, and churches like Mean Street Ministries, as well as those affected by natural disasters in Grand and Eagle counties and the Poudre Canyon area.
How you can help: It takes a ton of ingredients and a village of volunteers to prep, cook, and deliver thousands of meal—so the Cookes are looking for help Wednesday night (November 24) and Thursday morning (November 25). Sign up to volunteer or donate.
What they need: In lieu of its annual Refugee First Thanksgiving potluck dinner, Ruby’s Market is partnering with the African Community Center and Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains to collect food and hygiene items for members of the immigrant and refugee communities, including new arrivals from Afghanistan. Since many of these new Coloradans aren’t used to eating American foods, the organizations are asking for donations of culturally appropriate products such as basmati rice, dried lentils, and black tea.
Who it helps: The refugee and immigrant families in the ACC and LFS networks (last year, the organizations delivered more than 300 care packages to 503 people around the Thanksgiving holiday)
How you can help: Drop off a reusable grocery bag packed with items in the alley behind Ruby’s Market (1569 S. Pearl St.) any time this month. For more information and a full list of household items and culturally appropriate foods they need the most, view the flyer here. If you can’t make it by the shop in November, items can be donated year-round.
What they need: Monetary donations to cook and distribute hearty, restaurant-quality meals to more than 500 people; this year’s Thanksgiving dish will feature a hearty turkey sandwich
Who it Helps: Neighbors residing at Denver shelters
How you can help: Donate here to support Kitchen One for One’s Thanksgiving event, as well as year-round initiatives to supply warm meals to at-risk populations across the Front Range. Bonus: In November, Toro Latin Kitchen will also donate a percentage of every shrimp taco sold on its happy hour menu to Kitchen One for One; the taco recipe was crafted by chef Oscar Padilla for the nonprofit to serve on its food truck and at the restaurant.
What they need: 15,000 frozen turkeys
Who it helps: The turkeys are distributed to those in need by 100 schools, nonprofits, and churches, in addition to being prepared and served at Denver Rescue Mission outposts around town. Another 3,000 Thanksgiving Banquet-in-a-Boxes (turkey dinners with all the fixings) are given out the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.
How you can help: Donate a frozen turkey (12 pounds or more) or other non-perishables like canned pumpkin, cranberry sauce, and yams, or boxed stuffing and mashed potatoes. The drop-off locations are the Lawrence Street Shelter (1120 Park Ave. West) or Ministry Outreach Center (5725 E. 39th Ave.). You can also bring birds to the Denver Broncos Turkey Drive Event at UCHealth Training Center’s Pat Bowlen Fieldhouse on Saturday, November 20, from 10 a.m.–2 p.m.
What they need: Monetary donations to fill Thanksgiving boxes with all of the ingredients to make a traditional meal, which will be distributed to households on Tuesday, November 23
Who it helps: Families facing hunger or food insecurity
How you can help: Because the organization can buy items at reduced cost, monetary donations make the biggest impact. However, the Jewish Family Service pantry (3201 S. Tamarac Dr.) accepts donations of non-perishable foods year-round; see a list of their biggest needs here.
What they need: Project Angel Heart—a nonprofit that provides medically tailored meals to those living with life-threatening illnesses—is hosting its annual pie fundraiser. Each sweet treat sold allows the organization to prepare and deliver three free meals to a Coloradan in need.
Who it helps: The more than 3,500 people living in 18 Colorado counties who rely on Project Angel Heart’s services. While the Pie in the Sky program was put on hold in 2020, it raised $169,059 via pie orders and donations in 2019.
How you can help: Order an apple or pecan pie by Thursday, November 18, to pick up at locations in Denver, Boulder, DTC, and Colorado Springs on Tuesday, November 23, or make a monetary donation ($30 buys three meals).
What they need: Plates by the Pound BBQ owner Aaron Gonerway is teaming up with the youth-empowerment organization Righteous Project to provide free, hot Thanksgiving meals to community members on Wednesday, November 24, in Aurora. They also plan to give away 100 turkeys and $200 Wal-Mart gift cards to families that might need a little extra help.
Who it helps: Anyone seeking a hot meal or extra assistance
How you can help: Donate here or reach out to Gonerway at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out other ways you can pitch in.
Bonus: Donate to Sophie’s Neighborhood
Sophie’s Neighborhood is the nonprofit established by chef Hosea Rosenberg and his wife Lauren—the pair behind Boulder’s Blackbelly and Santo—for their daughter Sophie, who is one of approximately 30 people in the world diagnosed with multicentric carpotarsal osteolysis (MCTO), a rare, crippling genetic disease that causes joint bones to disappear over time. Sophie’s Neighborhood, which raises money to fund MCTO research in hopes of finding a cure for the disease, will host a virtual auction fundraiser featuring lots of cool culinary gifts from November 25–December 5. Check it out here.