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Thousands of families get Thanksgiving groceries

Bags of Thanksgiving groceries, topped with turkeys, at the Dorchester YMCA.
Bags of Thanksgiving groceries, topped with turkeys, at the Dorchester YMCA.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

Thousands of families in need received the ingredients for a Thanksgiving meal this weekend, according to the Red Cross, which hosted its annual giveaway Saturday morning.

“Thanksgiving dinner is special time for people no matter what their economic status is,” said Jeff Hall, a Red Cross of Massachusetts spokesman. “And the COVID pandemic has been really hard on local community.”

Some of the donated produce at the American Red Cross food pantry was wheeled over to distribution tables.
Some of the donated produce at the American Red Cross food pantry was wheeled over to distribution tables. Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

Because of the pandemic, the organization has seen a 75 percent increase in the number of families needing support, he said.

About 3,000 families received bags of potatoes, carrots, and onions, although the organization did not have enough turkeys for everyone, according to Hall. The Red Cross gave out all the 1,200 8- to 12-pound birds donated by a food pantry volunteer, who has personally provided the turkeys for the past three years, Hall said.

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Due to pandemic safety concerns, the Red Cross, which operates a food pantry in Newmarket Square, had to scale back from 200 to about 50 volunteers on one of its busiest days of the year, according to Hall.

There were long car lines for those waiting to pick up food. The American Red Cross said it was unable to provide turkeys to everyone who received groceries.
There were long car lines for those waiting to pick up food. The American Red Cross said it was unable to provide turkeys to everyone who received groceries.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

But this year, the organization had the support of Boston Public Schools teachers, administrators, and parents, who together delivered more than 1,000 of the meals to the families of public school students in Dorchester, he said.

The Dorchester YMCA also distributed Thanksgiving meals Saturday morning, according to the office of Mayor Martin J. Walsh, who attended both events.

“Clearly you can see the need for food distribution in the city of Boston,” Walsh said at the event, according to audio provided by his office.

“This pandemic certainly is real and it [has] even put a bigger spotlight on food insecurities in the city but also in the United States: There’s lines like this all across America,” Walsh said.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh handed a turkey to someone picking up groceries.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh handed a turkey to someone picking up groceries.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

The holiday has only magnified that need more, according to the Red Cross.

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“We know people need day-to-day help,” Hall said, “but this is a special time of year and we do what we can to make this week extra special for people.”

Bags of potatoes at the Red Cross food pantry.
Bags of potatoes at the Red Cross food pantry.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

Lucas Phillips can be reached at lucas.phillips@globe.com.