Local organizations battle inflation and Thanksgiving turkey shortage


BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) – Ever-rising prices are making traditional Thanksgiving dinner entrees more expensive and hard to come by for the average family. The costs are no less for community organizations that provide meals to the less fortunate during the holiday season.

In kitchens like The Mission at Kern County, Thanksgiving dinner starts early in the morning. Many volunteers prepare lots of food to provide free meals on Thanksgiving Day. One of the biggest challenges this year is the rising price of turkeys.

Turkey is in short supply this year for various reasons. A peak of disease passed through the domestic herds. The USDA estimates that in 2022, more than 6 million turkeys died from avian flu. Inflation also makes everything, including turkeys, more expensive to raise, slaughter, ship and store, adding to the final price.

When Carlos Baldovinos, executive director of The Mission at Kern County, was asked if this price increase affected their free Thanksgiving meals, his answer was an emphatic yes.

“100% was sure,” Baldovinos said. “Three weeks ago we had no turkeys.” He adds that a typical Thanksgiving dinner at The Mission takes between 50 and 60 turkeys. So far they have managed to collect 40.

Despite the cost, many 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 Kern County Mission, 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 received when she was on the other side of the counter.

“So I can give back what people instilled in me and gave me, and that’s a new life,” Jarrow said.

As Thanksgiving approaches, Jarrow is still trying to gather everything the kitchen will need.

“We have about 40 (turkeys),” Jarrow said. She says the Mission needs about 60.

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

James Burger, CAP-K Outreach and Advocacy, says the increase has been quick and strong.

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

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


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