Ames’ Food at First prepares to serve free meals for Thanksgiving

Four hundred pounds of turkey, 350 pounds of potatoes, 55 pounds of cranberries, 30 large cans of green beans and 25 stuffing dishes will be used to feed up to 800 people at Food first on Thanksgiving Day.

The Ames-based nonprofit, located at First Christian Church at 611 Clark Ave., served approximately 650 people during Thanksgiving. Patty Yoder, Executive Director of Food at First, expects more customers to buy a free meal this year.

“I’ve had people dice celery for stuffing before, and we’ve got everything ready in the freezer,” Yoder said last week. “There is a lot of preparation work.

Food at First will serve a Thanksgiving take-out dinner from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday at First Christian Church. Face masks are mandatory for volunteers and guests.

This year marks the second Thanksgiving meal Food at First served during the pandemic. Yoder said COVID-19 drastically altered the organization’s free meal program and perishable food distribution, as volunteers continued to take public health precautions.

The organization’s free meals, which approximately 120 people collect each day, are still served curbside. Food at the first free market, open three times a week, recently relocated to the church. Guests are required to wear masks and are asked to stay six feet from each other in a line.

Related: Here’s where to find free Thanksgiving meals in Story County and Boone County

Food at First Volunteers Alice May and Yishun Lin prepare Thanksgiving meals at First Christian Church on Monday, November 22, 2021 in Ames, Iowa

About 200 volunteers rallied in the days leading up to Thursday so Food at First could serve more than six times the number of people they usually cook for on a typical day. In addition to making Thanksgiving dinner entrees like mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce, Food at First will be making homemade pies and 1,600 pumpkin bars – double last year’s recipe, a Yoder said, so the squares could be made into 800 sandwiches to prevent the cream cheese frosting from sticking to takeout boxes.

Food at First spends more than $ 400 a week on disposable packaging, said Yoder, a cost that has been rising since supply chain issues have caused shortages of take-out containers.

“With all the shipping issues right now, sometimes you go to a store to buy something and they don’t have it,” Yoder said. “So we worked a lot online to find everything.”

Following: For those in need, here’s where to find free Thanksgiving meals in central Iowa.

Food at First volunteer Jessica Nelson prepares Thanksgiving meals at First Christian Church on Monday, November 22, 2021 in Ames, Iowa

While the number of people visiting the pantry has declined since the start of the pandemic, the number of people eating a free meal each day has steadily increased, Yoder said.

“We see new faces all the time,” Yoder said. “Maybe I am thinking of asking the cooks to prepare a few more meals each day because we have started to miss a few days.”

As Food at First prepares to feed hundreds of people for Thanksgiving, the organization is also distributing food donations to people who will be cooking at home for the holidays. Food donations can be dropped off at the West Entrance of Food at First from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays.

Articles about the organization’s grocery wish list include canned chicken, cream soups, olive oil and an assortment of fruits and vegetables.

While Yoder said the past year and a half has been a challenge, “We just keep going.”

“The local people have been really, really generous with us in helping with these additional costs,” Yoder said. “We are very grateful to this great community. “

Isabella Rosario is a public security reporter for the Ames Tribune. She can be contacted by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at @irosarioc.

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