Free Thanksgiving dinners and turkeys.
Charities and churches will often provide free Thanksgiving dinners to low income families or really anyone that is looking for help. In general, the meals are served on site to anyone that wants one, and they are open to the public. Other forms of assistance may also be offered, such as gift certificates to purchase groceries and some charities will even pass out a free Thanksgiving turkey to the needy.
The terms and conditions of each program will vary widely. Some churches, such as the Salvation Army, may serve a lunch or dinner on Thanksgiving day itself, while other charities may serve them one day before or after the holiday. Or it may be that a local charity does not even serve a meal, but rather they provide the client with a free box of food (or a voucher to a grocery store) to buy a turkey. They also provide all the side toppings that the family needs. More information on how to apply for help is below.
Food pantries, some of which also have a soup kitchen on site, may provide help in one of two ways. These tend to be “hyper” local in that they only serve people in a limited area and each center has their own application process, resources, and hours of operation.
- Food banks may only give a Thanksgiving holiday turkey as well as the sides, such as cranberry, gravy, bread and other items, to an income qualified family and their children.
- Soup kitchens may be located at some food banks. These sites will tend to serve an entire hot dinner to individuals, including the homeless.
- Some of these charity run food pantries may give the client a gift certificate to redeem at a local supermarket. This will allow the family to buy their own turkey and maybe other food items.
It is recommended to call or stop by a pantry to learn more on what they offer. Anyone that is seeking help at Thanksgiving (or really any holiday) should ask in advance what type of services are provided, and do not wait until November rolls around. Find how to get help from a food pantry.
The homebound, disabled, and senior citizens that can't make it to a feeding site should register for Thanksgiving assistance from a Meals on Wheels provider. These tend to be offered as year round services. Some of the administering agencies may charge the client, or “encourage” a donation. Other Meals on Wheels services are free, especially those offered from Agency on Aging Centers.
While they do not always offer free frozen meals on Thanksgiving day itself, the volunteer drivers may deliver the ingredients to a dinner. They may bring the free turkey, dinner rolls, pies, and other items. Then the homebound person just needs to heat up the meal on Thanksgiving day, and they too will be able to enjoy the holiday.
Free Thanksgiving lunches or dinners may also be served by churches or other faith based groups. There will not be any discrimination based on age, religion, or race and anyone can drop in. Churches, such as St. Vincent de Paul or Catholic Charities do their best to feed the poor at Thanksgiving. The goal is to spread holiday joy to all, especially to children and the elderly.
The meals served by a church depend on volunteers and donations. They rely on stores, restaurants, fund raisers, and other sources of money in an effort to offer these Thanksgiving programs. Anyone that uses a soup kitchen at a local church is always encouraged to also volunteer in an effort to give back to the needy. Find details on meals and food from churches.
Coupons can also be used to buy groceries or a turkey at Thanksgiving. Families that want to prepare their own dinner (but save money at the same time) often benefit from these discounts. Not only can anyone use a coupon to save money, but they are also free and can be printed from an online website or cut from the newspaper. Find a listing of free coupon sites.
Free turkey meals can also be provided by the Salvation Army. The faith based church group requests donations from the public and they also enter into partnership with grocery stores or local businesses. They will usually serve a dinner on site. Or in some exceptional cases they will deliver a food box to the sick or elderly. Salvation Army volunteers may also visit senior citizens in a nursing home or hospital to bring them a Thanksgiving meal and companionship.
Not only will the dinner be served, but many clients can also register for other social services that the Salvation Army administers. As during the October, November, and December time frame they begin to ramp up coat drives and other holiday programs. So both a Thanksgiving dinner or food box may be provided along with other support. More Salvation Army food programs.
Even after Thanksgiving day, many families need help providing for their families during the Christmas holiday season. There are many other programs available during the months of December that can provide meals, boxes of food, and even small gifts to kids. It is often a good idea to apply for these at the same time as applications are made for a free Thanksgiving dinner. Learn about other holiday and Christmas assistance programs that are targeted at helping low income families.