Thanksgiving Project

Impact: The 20th Annual Thanksgiving Project

This week, more than 1,000 hard-working volunteers from around the Greater Boston area will unite with one goal in mind: to make sure every family gets to enjoy a home-cooked holiday meal with their loved ones this season.

United Way’s annual Thanksgiving Project is the largest collective initiative of its kind in the Greater Boston area. Since 2009, the project has rallied the resources and passion of thousands of volunteers, community organizations and generous donors to lend a hand to families in our community who need it the most. 

It can be easy to take a full belly for granted when you’re able to walk into the grocery store and purchase whatever you’re craving. But for many, that is not the reality. More than 616,000 people in Massachusetts are experiencing food insecurity with nearly 200,000 children factoring into this count. This scarcity often boils down to a day-to-day decision between putting food on the table and keeping the heat on. 

“Dorchester’s a neighborhood where if you’re earning minimum wage you’re really not making enough money to pay your rent, pay your utility bills, and have food for your family.”
-Debbie Rambo, President of Boston Catholic Charities

For families facing these kinds of choices every day, these bags are more than just a festive Thanksgiving meal. Each bag contains enough food for a week which means they get to eat well without compromising their limited budget. Items include onions, potatoes, canned corn, canned green beans, cornbread mix, stuffing, black beans, cranberry sauce, gravy, rice, and an aluminum turkey pan. Every family also receives either a turkey or a grocery gift card to purchase one depending on the site.

Last year, we distributed 6,500 bags of food totaling more than 150,000 pounds. This year, when it’s all said and done, we will distribute over 200,000 pounds of food to more than 11,000 families in 20 different communities! That means that more than 25,000 people will be able to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal because of United Way’s amazing volunteers, donors, and sponsors.

How it works

  • Companies all over Eastern Massachusetts run drives for cornbread. Combined with over a hundred pallets of food donated by Wegmans, it all adds up to more than 200,000 pounds.
  • The week before Thanksgiving, more than 1,000 volunteers put their muscles to work packaging food into Thanksgiving grocery bags and loading them onto UPS trucks for delivery. UPS is bringing it all together by generously donating their trucks, fuel, labor, and logistics to the project.
  • Distribution of bags takes place on the Saturday before Thanksgiving through United Way’s partners, including regional nonprofits like Catholic Charities, Interfaith Social Services, the Lynn Housing Authority, the Weymouth Food Pantry, Lawrence Community Works, and more.
  • Families have something extra to be thankful for – a home-cooked holiday meal with their loved ones and a day’s respite from the struggle to meet their basic needs. 

Inspired to get involved? Here’s how you can still help:

  • Sponsor a family’s meal by donating directly to the project. As food costs continue to rise, funding remains our most critical need.
  • Host a Gather, Gobble and Give event, either at an office potluck or at home. Make it count by sponsoring a local family’s Thanksgiving dinner as part of the celebration. Set a goal for the number of families you would like to support – each meal costs only $50.
  • Join the movement by following @unitedwaymabay on social media and sharing what you are most grateful for. Remember to tag #UWThanksgiving #LiveUnited and @unitedwaymabay to help spread the word!

A huge thank you to all who were and will be involved in making the 20th annual Thanksgiving Project a success! It is thanks to your hard work and dedication that we are able to have the impact we do.“The Thanksgiving Project continues to grow year over year, which is a testament to our donors and volunteers,”  said Mike Durkin, President of United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley. “But it also shows how much need remains in our communities.”

You can help feed families all year long by supporting United Way on #GivingTuesday  December 3rd. As part of the #PowerChange campaign, Eversource will DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!