During the holidays FFLC gets many questions about food donations. And that’s great! Donating food helps make the holidays brighter for our neighbors; however, the most common question we get is, “Where can I donate a turkey for Thanksgiving?”
The short answer is: you probably shouldn’t donate a turkey, or any item that requires refrigeration or a freezer.
Here is why:
Food safety: FOOD For Lane County and the Feeding America network of food banks takes food safety incredibly seriously. All the food distributed through FOOD For Lane County and our partners, whether perishable or shelf-stable, has been appropriately checked and is safe to eat. We apply those same standards to the food you donate.
When you donate a frozen turkey or perishable food item, there’s no way to guarantee someone kept it at a safe temperature. Because of that uncertainty, many food banks, including FOOD For Lane County, often do not want to risk distributing them.
Not enough storage: Turkeys are big. The average Thanksgiving turkey comes in at a total of 15 pounds. That means they’re not easy to store or to distribute in a food box.
Just think about keeping a turkey in your refrigerator. With all the other food you might buy for Thanksgiving – stuffing, potatoes, cranberry sauce, pies, etc. – it can get crowded in there fast.
Food pantries often deal with the same situation. During the holidays and year-round, our partner agency network distributes a lot of food that needs to be refrigerated or frozen. With cold storage space already at a premium, many partners would be hard-pressed to find space to store turkeys if individuals donated a large number of them.
It is also a tough choice to have decide which households to give a limited number of turkeys to while aspiring to be as equitable as possible.
Purchasing is more efficient: FOOD For Lane County purchases a lot of food in bulk to serve the roughly 70,000 individuals in our county that seek help at our pantries each year. And that means we’re often able to secure wholesale prices on that food. So, the money you would spend on a turkey might actually be more efficiently used as a donation to the food bank, since we can buy a lot more food with it than an individual could at a local store.
So, if I can’t donate a Thanksgiving turkey or Christmas ham, do food banks distribute them?
Yes! Food is such an essential part of holiday traditions. And we want to ensure our neighbors facing hunger can have those experiences with their family and friends during the holidays.
Many companies donate the turkeys and hams that they purchase for their employees for the holidays. FOOD For Lane County picks up the product directly from the manufacturer with a cooler truck. We also have partnerships with numerous grocery and retail stores and receive generous donations of hams and turkeys that are held at temp until our cooler truck picks them up.
What can you do to support food banks during the holidays?
There are plenty of ways to get involved this holiday season and beyond other than donating hams or turkeys! If you’re set on donating food, check out our most needed foods list, and then contact us to drop it off or to start your food drive. Want to get more hands-on? Try volunteering at a food pantry. All FFLC Partner Agencies, including pantries, are their own, independent, non-profit or religious organizations. Most are staffed by volunteers and are great places to work and volunteer in direct service. Find the closest place to you to volunteer. Or, host a virtual Thanksgiving food drive to spice up your next holiday party.
Other organizations that may be able accept perishable products (we suggest calling ahead):
St. Vincent de Paul Service Station
450 OR-99, Eugene, OR 97402
The Eugene Mission
1542 W 1st Ave, Eugene, OR 97402
Burrito Brigade/Waste 2 Taste
1775 W 6th Ave, Eugene, OR 97402
(541) 632-3239/(541) 283-5647