Kortney Lisser lost her job at UW Health earlier this month and worried about the effect unemployment would have on the holiday season.
The 35-year-old mother of two boys was among hundreds who came to the Goodman Community Center’s Thanksgiving Basket Drive on Tuesday to pick up a free bounty of turkeys, pies and side dishes.
“I think it’s amazing for people that need it, and they donate a good amount of stuff,” said Lisser, who heard about the generous offer from a former co-worker.
The 2019 Thanksgiving Basket Drive was the biggest one yet for the center, which distributed roughly 4,000 baskets between Saturday and Tuesday, enough to feed about 25,000 people.
Each basket consists of two paper bags full of perishable and nonperishable food items and a turkey, about 55 pounds of food. The basket includes enough to feed four to six people and holds Thanksgiving staples such as vegetables, pie and ice cream.
Sam McDaniel, food pantry coordinator at the Goodman Center, said 85% of this year’s baskets were picked up by Monday by those who had registered for them. Leftover baskets as well as extra items were distributed Tuesday on a first-come, first-serve basis.
The center asks people who register online if they are Dane County residents, but there is no requirement to provide identification — especially on the last day when “everyone is welcome,” McDaniel said.
The Goodman Center has conducted the food drive for more than 30 years, and this is McDaniel’s third year as the organizer. Last year the center distributed about 3,700 baskets.
More than half of the people fed are children, McDaniel said. The center partners with the Madison School District to give students early access to the online registration so their families can register. McDaniel said about half of those who register are in the school district.
With 700 to 800 volunteers participating over the course of eight weeks, McDaniel said the most complicated part of the process is sorting and packaging food that is donated in bulk. This year Second Harvest Food Bank delivered 39,000 pounds of fresh vegetables which volunteers put into three- to four-pound bags.
McDaniel said he hopes to make the basket drive more efficient next year by getting the word out sooner to people interested in registering to receive the baskets or volunteering.
“It’s an awesome program that we refine every year,” McDaniel said. “We’ll see if we can try and push it even further.”
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