York County Shelter Programs Food Pantry is looking for donations of turkeys to help fill the 900 or so Thanksgiving food boxes distributed to needy York County families and is hoping folks will step up to help. Here, assistant food pantry manager Jim Colligan pauses beside boxes of winter squash at the pantry. Courtesy photo

ALFRED — Higher food prices over the past couple of years means a longtime York County pantry program is looking to the wider community to help them provide turkeys to about 900 needy families this Thanksgiving season.

Between the 900 food boxes dispensed at Thanksgiving and 500 more at Christmas, York County Shelter Programs’ Food Pantry distributes about 1,400 over the two holidays. With each box containing enough food for a family of four, that adds up to meals for 5,600 people.

The pantry needs help filling the boxes.

“Costs are up. Inflation is (up) 15% in the food industry,” said YCSP Food Services Director Scott Davis. The poultry industry has taken a hit with bird flu in recent years, driving turkey prices higher in 2022, Davis said, and egg prices rose over the spring. Davis said food distributors are trying to fill driving positions — all those factors together have driven up costs.

The American Farm Bureau Federation has said turkey prices are expected to be lower for Thanksgiving this year than they were in 2022, but food costs overall are up.

That, Davis said, means even though the agency calls local supermarkets to secure the best price they can for frozen turkeys, it is higher than sale prices offered to consumers closer to the holiday.


Those sale prices, aimed at families, and often called “lost leaders” to encourage consumers to come through the doors and buy other goods, also come with a limit on the number that can be bought at one time.

“We are struggling,” Davis said.

Davis is hoping that individuals, businesses, and organizations will step up to help.

“If a local business or (government) department wants to do a turkey drive,” that would be a big help, he said. Those willing to conduct a drive can call him at 324-1137, ext. 116 or contact Food Pantry Manager Mike Ouellette at 391-3125.

Davis said the pantry, which operates in a building provided by York County government at the corner of Route 4 and Swett’s Bridge Road in Alfred, would also welcome and appreciate donations of turkeys by individuals and families. The frozen birds — 10-12 pounds is the ideal weight — may be dropped off at the pantry any weekday morning from 8 a.m. to noon.

The food boxes for the upcoming Nov. 23 Thanksgiving holiday will contain turkey, vegetables, cranberry sauce, stuffing, gravy, a dessert, and a few extras, like pasta and sauce or macaroni and cheese, said Ouellette; the food pantry manager said donations of those items are also welcome. At Christmas, the menu could change a bit, with ham offered, instead of turkey.

Those who want to help may also mail a check, with “food pantry” in the check memo line to York County Shelter Programs Food Pantry at P.O. Box 1268, Alfred, ME 04002.

Overall, Ouellette said, the Thanksgiving distribution tends to top out at around 800 food boxes but increased to just under 900 in 2022 — and he expects to provide the same amount this Thanksgiving season.

Demand for the regular, twice-weekly distributions at the food pantry has doubled as compared to pre-COVID days. Prior to the pandemic, the pantry distributed 60-80 food boxes each Tuesday and Friday from noon to 3 p.m., Ouellette said, but these days, it’s 150-160 boxes. Each of the boxes contains enough food for a family of four for 3-4 days.

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