Ah, Thanksgiving. A time for family, friends, and, of course, feasting the day away on mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, turkey, and more, before settling into the ultimate food coma nap (hey there, tryptophan 👋 ).
While that scenario may be a reality for many in the coming days, some of our neighbors could be experiencing a food shortage, as the rate of food insecurity in Polk County continues to rise.
In 2018, 13.7% of Polk County residents experienced food insecurity, according to Feeding America – a rate that is higher than in counties like Orange, Osceola, and Hillsborough. And now, due to COVID-19, job loss, and other circumstances, local food pantries have experienced a higher demand volume.
👋 Kaylee here and I just wanted to add one last thing: We are so much better as a community to help one another, so if you’re hungry + in need, please don’t feel guilty about utilizing this list. I grew up with a single mother who, at many times, worked multiple jobs, making sure we consistently had food on the table. If it wasn’t for the generosity of local churches, nonprofits, and the kindness of strangers, I’m not sure we would have had Thanksgiving dinner sometimes. Shout out to all the workers + volunteers keeping everyone’s’ bellies full + warm this holiday season. Y’all are the real MVPs. 💛
If you or someone you know is in need this Thanksgiving, check out this list below of local groups giving away free holiday meals. ⬇️
Lakes Church (1010 E. Memorial Blvd., Lakeland) from 1-2:30 p.m., Lake Region High School (1995 Thunder Rd., Eagle Lake) from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m., and at Church on the Hill (111 Scenic Hwy., Dundee) from 9-10:30 a.m. | The sheriff’s office is giving away 1,400 free Thanksgiving turkeys on Nov. 21. Turkeys will be distributed one per family, per vehicle (until they run out).
123 First St. N., Winter Haven + 2002 5th Ave., Unit 101, Tampa | 10 a.m. | For the eighth year in a row, this local law group is hosting a free giveaway, where they’re sharing 350 turkeys in Winter Haven + 50 in Tampa on Nov. 21.
Locations vary | Times vary | You can collect free groceries to prepare a Thanksgiving meal from both mobile + mega pantries in Polk County.
Locations vary | Times vary | Ibotta has teamed up with Walmart to offer free Thanksgiving meals after patrons download a Chrome extension. Meals feed a family of five and consist of turkey, seasonings, soft drinks, frozen vegetables + more.
814 N. Kentucky Ave. | The ministry is hosting a sit-down meal on Thanksgiving day at 4 p.m. Masks (unless seated) + social distancing will be required and dinner will be served in shifts.
KOE Barber Academy | On the corner of Bailey Road + Hwy. 60 W., Mulberry (the lot behind the Dollar General Store) | This barbershop is giving away free frozen turkeys (in limited quantities) and free haircuts. Oliver Green and his barber academy students will be giving back to the community on Sat., Nov. 21 from 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
Note: This is not a complete list, so if you know of other local places sharing free Thanksgiving meals, email us here.
Pass along the stuffing, gravy, rolls, and this list, via your Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or by email. You never know who could use it. 🥘