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The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Local nonprofits provide Thanksgiving meals to fight food insecurity


Hays County Food Bank volunteers unload meal kits at Turkeys Tackling Hunger Distribution event, Monday, Nov. 14, 2022, at Bobcat Stadium parking lot.

A pantry full of ingredients and a roster full of volunteers is all Hays County residents need to serve their communities this Thanksgiving.
Hays County Food Bank’s Turkeys Tackling Hunger and Operation Turkey are ensuring everyone has a meal for the holiday by providing some relief for families facing food insecurity. 
“Many people, even in September and October, start calling and asking, ‘When can we sign up for this?’” Iris Tate, the community relations coordinator of the Hays County Food Bank, said. “I feel like really just keeping that tradition going and kind of letting our clients have the relief of knowing this is just one less thing that they need to pay for around the holiday season.”
The Hays County Food Bank’s 16th annual Turkeys Tackling Hunger campaign will provide 1,500 meal kits for this Thanksgiving. The food bank knows the importance of cooking holiday meals together for some families which is why it provides uncooked ingredients in the meal kits. This way families can spend time in the kitchen with loved ones and cook their food to their liking.
The kit will include a 14 to 16-pound frozen turkey, shelf-stable goods like pumpkin filling and cranberry sauce and fresh produce including potatoes, carrots and green beans.
“While some people make just a classic turkey, other families that have different traditions can make like a turkey pozole,” Tate said. “So, it really gives them the opportunity to explore and create together and sit around a table.”
The planning for Turkeys Tackling Hunger began in February. Hays County Food Bank works with the Central Texas Food Bank to buy all of the ingredients at a discounted price. They have also received $50,000 in donations from local companies to make the campaign successful. 
Each Thanksgiving meal costs $30. Hays County Food Bank relies on community fundraising to be able to afford the 1,500 meals. Tate said students can help by donating and getting the word out about Turkeys Tackling Hunger.
“If [students] know that their friend or their family could benefit from not having to worry about paying for ingredients, they can spread the word and tell their classmates that this is a resource,” Tate said.
After the food bank buys the ingredients they are stored at the title sponsor, Night Hawk Frozen Foods’, warehouse in Buda, Texas, where the they are packaged and then transported to distribution centers by Little Guy Movers. 
“There are families in need in Hays County, which is where our business is, that won’t have a Thanksgiving without these meals,” Leanne Logan, owner of Night Hawk Frozen Foods said. “So, it’s a total partnership between Night Hawk Frozen Foods and the Hays County Food Bank. They get all the ingredients and we put them together because that’s what we do.”
Logan and her husband got involved with the food bank by helping pack the meals for the Turkeys Tackling Hunger in 2014. After the event they realized they had the resources to be able to pack the meals at their plant and established the partnership they have today. Night Hawk Frozen Food employees are paid off the clock to come in to pack the 1,500 meals on Nov. 12. 
“We have decided a long time ago that we wanted to give back to the community,” Logan said. ”This is something that we can do and we hope to continue to do it with Hays County Food Bank for a long time. It’s fun. Our employees love it. It’s just a fun day for everyone.”
Operation Turkey is a non-profit volunteer organization that started in Austin in 2000. Jesse Ruiz, a Texas State exercise and sports science alumnus, founded Operation Turkey San Marcos in 2011 to give warm meals to those in need. He got involved with Operation Turkey in Austin in 2010 and expanded it to San Marcos. 
This year Ruiz’s goal is to serve 1,500 warm meals. The turkeys will be smoked the day before Thanksgiving, and the side dishes will be heated up on Thanksgiving morning. Volunteers then package and deliver the meals to the houses of those who signed up to receive one.
Ruiz sees Operation Turkey as a way to give back to San Marcos.
“This is a service that I get to provide to a city that allowed me the opportunity to receive an education,” Ruiz said. “I just imagined that some of the people that we serve are probably families like mine when I was growing up.”
This year, Operation Turkey’s meal distribution will take place at Texas Roadhouse, where volunteers will prepare, package and deliver food from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Thanksgiving. For Operation Turkey to be successful a lot of volunteers are needed. Ruiz hopes for 125 volunteers. He can make it work with 50 to 75 but the low numbers cause a lot of strain on the volunteers. 
There is a volunteer orientation for Operation Turkey from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Zoom, on Nov. 20, and the sign-up links can be found on Operation Turkeys’ website or Facebook page.
Ruiz’s long-term goal for Operation Turkey is to turn it into a long-term fixture in the community. He wants to build connections with student organizations to have Operation Turkey as a yearly service project to increase the longevity of the event.
“I want to leave my imprint in the San Marcos community, but I need help to do that for the long term,” Ruiz said. “For now. It’s fine the way it is. But in order for it to be a fixture, I need to be able to hand it off to a group.”
To donate to the Hays County Food Bank, visit https://www.haysfoodbank.org/donate/. To request a meal from Operation Turkey, visit https://www.operationturkey.com/meal-request/. The meal request link will close at 5 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 19. 

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  • Hays County Food Bank volunteers load a meal kit into a recipients car during Turkeys Tackling Hunger distribution event, Monday, Nov. 14, 2022, at Bobcat Stadium parking lot.

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