Giving Thought: Donating holiday meals for as many as possible
Alongside all the other ways that the coronavirus pandemic has upended our lives, it appears that many, if not most, of our family holiday gatherings will not be the large, in-person celebrations we’re used to.
Owing to the risk of disease transmission, families across the country are considering foregoing the usual Thanksgiving turkey dinners and Christmas gift exchanges. This means that a lot more people will find themselves celebrating the holidays alone or as a couple, versus the more traditional multi-generational gatherings.
But there’s at least one bright spot to this situation. Local nonprofits are bending over backward to ensure that every local household has food on the table for a nice holiday meal.
“Right now, my office looks like City Market,” said Katherine Sand of Aspen Family Connections, which recently moved its weekly food giveaways to the Aspen Chapel every Wednesday from noon to 2 p.m. “We would love for the community come see us, and we will take care of them.”
Knowing that many families are struggling to make all of their monthly payments, struggling to find work and feeling generally squeezed during the pandemic, Sand is encouraging anyone and everyone to show up next Wednesday and take advantage of this opportunity. Aspen Country Day School recently held a big food drive to bolster supplies and Sand added that there will be ample stores of diapers for local families.
“This is a really good way for anyone who’s having money issues to stretch their funds, so I really urge them to come,” she said.
The same holds true for the weekly mobile food pantry at Crown Mountain Park in El Jebel, operated by Food Bank of the Rockies and the Aspen Skiing Co. Usually the event takes place on Thursdays, but owing to the Thanksgiving holiday, they’re moving it to noon-2 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 24.
Eden Vardy, executive director of The Farm Collaborative, will provide more than 1,000 pounds of fresh, locally grown produce to both local food giveaways. The organization, which usually hosts a Thanksgiving farm-to-table feast at the Hotel Jerome for up to 1,500 people, decided to pivot this year to a different, COVID-conscious program.
“This year we can’t gather 1,500 people at the Jerome, and a lot of people are facing either financial or food insecurity,” Vardy explained. “So, we’re kind of redirecting our resources.”
Vardy too urged anyone and everyone to attend the Aspen or El Jebel food distributions, which will have more food on hand than the typical week. “Our contribution will be predominantly storage crops that can stay in the pantry for a while — potatoes, turnips, carrots, root vegetables,” he said.
In Garfield County, Mary Kenyon of Valley Meals and More has partnered with Rivers Restaurant in south Glenwood Springs to prepare and deliver Thanksgiving meals with turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy and vegetables. With funding from The Baguettes, a group of local women who, through their donor advised fund at ACF, have supported nutrition programs for more than a decade, Kenyon believes she can not only provide her (mostly elderly) meal recipients with a Thanksgiving dinner, but also leftovers to last through the holiday weekend.
“Our portions are so large that they can really make three meals out of it,” Kenyon said. “Everyone who gets a meal on Thanksgiving will also get a letter from a Roaring Fork or Aspen high school student.”
While we’re still struggling through this pandemic, it’s heartening to see a few of the many ways this extraordinary community continues to distinguish itself — first by providing the food for those who need it, but also including the human touch with a smile, a written note or perhaps a friendly, pandemic-era elbow bump.
In addition to the efforts above, LIFT-UP continues to hold its weekly drive-through food distributions in towns from Aspen to Parachute. During Thanksgiving week only, the distributions will occur from 2-4 p.m. Monday in Carbondale, Glenwood and New Castle, and Tuesday in Rifle and Parachute. Visit liftup.org for more information.
Tamara Tormohlen is executive director of Aspen Community Foundation.