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Local organizations face uphill fight against inflation, turkey shortages this Thanksgiving

The Mission at Kern County is still 20 birds short of a Thanksgiving dinner just a week before the holiday.
The Mission at Kern County's kitchen
Posted at 4:55 PM, Nov 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-18 21:15:20-05

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Ever-increasing prices are making traditional Thanksgiving dinner staples more expensive and difficult to get for the average family. The costs are no less for community organizations that provide meals to the less fortunate around the holiday season.

At food kitchens like the one at The Mission at Kern County, Thanksgiving dinner starts early in the morning. Lots of volunteers preparing lots of food go into getting free meals out on Thanksgiving Day. This year, one of the biggest struggles is the rising price of turkey.

Turkey is in short supply this year for a variety of reasons. A spike in disease ran through domestic flocks. The USDA estimates that in 2022, more than 6 million turkeys died as a result of avian flu. Inflation is also making everything, including turkeys, more expensive to raise, slaughter, ship and stock, all of which adds to the final price.

When Carlos Baldovinos, the executive director of The Mission at Kern County, was asked if that increase in price is affecting their free meals on Thanksgiving, his answer was a definite yes.

“100 percent, it sure was,” said Baldovinos. “As of three weeks ago, we had zero turkeys.” He adds that a typical Thanksgiving dinner at The Mission takes somewhere between 50 and 60 turkeys. So far, they’ve managed to collect 40.

Despite the cost, lots of Kern County organizations are still planning food drives and sit-down dinners for those in need, including The Blessing Corner Ministries, Stay Focused Ministries, United Way of Kern County, Catholic Charities in partnership with the Community Action Partnership of Kern, and of course The Mission at Kern County.

Kitchen Supervisor for The Mission at Kern County Lavonne Jarrow says her role in organizing Thanksgiving for the less fortunate is her way of giving back to the community for the Thanksgiving dinners she was given when she was on the other side of the counter.

“So I can give back what people have instilled and given to me, and that is a new life,” said Jarrow.

This close to Thanksgiving, Jarrow is still scrambling to put together everything the kitchen is going to need.

“We got around, like, 40 (turkeys)," said Jarrow. She says The Mission needs around 60.

Inflation, unemployment, shipping difficulties and shortages are making this year’s holiday’s more expensive for everyone as well as increasing the demand for local organizations that provide free food.

James Burger, CAP-K Outreach and Advocacy, says the increase has been fast and sharp.

“We’ve seen a definite impact from inflation, not just on holiday food but on food in general,” said Burger. “We had around 30,000 people come to us for help in January, and in October, it was 70,000 people.”

If you are looking for a place to find a Thanksgiving meal, or if you’d like to help one of these community organizations to have what they need to make Thanksgiving just a little better for all our neighbors, any of the organizations mentioned in this article would appreciate hearing from you.