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Lack Of Turkeys Cancels Local Charity Thanksgiving Dinner Giveaway

Cyd Hoskinson

A local Thanksgiving tradition that has attracted thousands of Jacksonville families in need over the last four years won’t happen this year, organizers say.

Bruce Ganger, head of Feeding Northeast Florida, said the group will not hold its annual Second Harvest Thanksgiving Dinner Giveaway this month due to a lack of turkeys.              

Last year, Second Harvest of North Florida handed out 2,500 turkeys and fixings to droves of people that packed Everbank Field. Each year since the organization began the holiday drive, the numbers have grown, Ganger said.

Last year, the food distribution agency parted ways with Lutheran Social Services, which ran Second Harvest Food Bank.

Ganger said the transition did not give him enough time to order the turkeys needed for the event. He said the turkeys typically need to be ordered about a year in advance.  

“We just got formed up and going too late in the year to be able to go out and buy 2,500 turkeys for distribution so we’re looking at some alternatives,” he said.

The organization has received several turkey and food donations from local retailers, Ganger said, but it won’t be sufficient for an event that sees upwards of 2,000 families.

Instead, the group is focusing on getting meals to families through about 140 of their local partner organizations.

“We’re spending much more time working hard with our member agencies and using them as a distribution channel to reach out to those folks who might otherwise not have a nice opportunity to a nice Thanksgiving dinner,” he said.

Ganger said the group will gather feedback from this year to determine whether they will resume the Thanksgiving Dinner Giveaway again next year.

You can follow Rhema Thompson on Twitter @RhemaThompson.

Rhema Thompson began her post at WJCT on a very cold day in January 2014 and left WJCT to join the team at The Florida Times Union in December 2014.