United Way’s Largest-Ever Thanksgiving Project Provides Holiday Meals for 20,000 Families

November 19, 2022

As average cost of Thanksgiving dinner soars, 280,000 pounds of food distributed at 24 locations in 21 communities

BOSTON – United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley today hosted its 23rd Annual Thanksgiving Project, providing packed reusable grocery bags of Thanksgiving meal essentials to 20,000 families across 24 distribution sites in 21 communities in Eastern Massachusetts.

Since 1999, United Way has distributed Thanksgiving groceries to families in Greater Boston, to ensure they enjoy a homecooked holiday meal with their loved ones. As the region emerges from the pandemic, families continue to face economic challenges, including rising prices for essential items including groceries. According to the American Farm Bureau’s annual survey, the average cost of Thanksgiving dinner this year is the highest on record, up 20% from last year.

“The United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley embodies the best of the holiday season all year round,” said Assistant Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Katherine Clark (MA-5). “I was honored to join them and the Mystic Valley YMCA as part of the annual Thanksgiving Project meal distribution in Malden to help ensure our neighbors do not go hungry this holiday. We have a long way to go to tackle hunger, but I’m dedicated to continuing the fight in Congress alongside these wonderful local partners.”

Volunteers distributed Thanksgiving grocery bags in the following 21 communities: Attleboro, Chelsea, Dorchester, East Boston, Haverhill, Lawrence, Lowell, Lynn, Malden, Mattapan, North Attleboro, Quincy, Randolph, Roslindale, Roxbury, Somerville, South Boston, the South End, Taunton, Waltham and Weymouth.

Families received a reusable grocery bag filled with turkey stuffing, potatoes, cornbread, rice, black beans, canned peas, green beans, canned corn, and onions. Families also received a disposable turkey pan and either a turkey or a grocery gift card in their bags to purchase a turkey, depending on the distribution site.

Also, in response to feedback from previous distributions, this year United Way replaced items at the Quincy and South End distributions to be culturally responsive to families in the two communities. At these locations, families received noodles, napa cabbage, and bok choy in place of canned goods.

“Families across our region look forward to gathering with loved ones to enjoy a hearty meal over the holidays, but we know that many households need a little extra support,” said Bob Giannino, Ansin President and CEO at United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley. “In our 23rd year, amidst long-lasting impacts from the pandemic and soaring consumer prices, this is our most important and largest Thanksgiving Project yet. We are so appreciative of our agency partners, volunteers, donors, and elected officials who lock arms with us today and every day in support of our communities.”

This year, United Way also forged a new partnership with Region 1 of Boston Public Schools (BPS) for the distribution in East Boston. The distribution at East Boston High School supported 1,450 families.

“At the outset of this season of giving, gratitude, and celebration, United Way plays a vital role in lifting up our communities,” said BPS Superintendent Mary Skipper. “At Boston Public Schools, we are grateful for partners like United Way for their commitment to helping ensure our students and families’ needs are being met during this time, especially as temperatures drop and expenses rise.”

“Food insecurity is a reality for a growing number of families and we’re seeing more and more working families who need help as the price of groceries continues to rise due to inflation,” said Kevin M. MacKenzie, President and CEO of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston, a distribution partner at locations in Dorchester, Somerville, and the South End. “We are grateful to partner with United Way to help alleviate the financial burden that so many within our communities are facing.”

Sponsors for this year’s Thanksgiving Project include: Bank of America, Kirkland & Ellis, Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, Amazon, UPS, Wegmans, and many others.