The Thanksgiving Project this weekend is donating dinners to more than 5,000 families in Boston and in the North and South Shores, serving a larger community and more members than ever.
“Essentially, we used to run this just in Boston, but because of the increased need and the increased support from the communities, we’ve been able to expand [the program],” said Meghan Keaney Anderson, the senior director of communications for United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, one of the founders of the project.
The numbers of families in need, Anderson said, has steadily risen over the past two years, and this year, the project will provide dinners for 4,000 more families than it did in 2008.
“Homelessness is at the highest rate in 30 years,” she said. “Last year we had a 45 percent increase in call volume. And the previous year was another 45 percent increase. Year after year, since the economy has gone down, we’ve seen large jumps in calls.“
In Weymouth and Quincy alone, the project will donate food to 1,200 families and two of the eight locations families will pick up food.
Receiving donations from a variety of sources, including Putnam Investments and the same anonymous donor who started the project in 1998, the project obtains discounted food from grocery stores, buying an entire Thanksgiving meal for $30.
Especially this year, every single grocery bag is spoken for.
“I met someone yesterday who wasn’t initially on the list, and she said she didn’t expect to be in this position, and found herself having to chose for basic need, so we called over to the project site to see if they could round up any bags, but we are all spoken for at this point,” Anderson said.
“For most, it’s the first time they’ve needed help,” Anderson said.
Although Anderson hopes that fewer families will require assistance in future years, the project will be ready for 2011 as well.
“It seems to be a slow recovery, so time will tell, but we’re ready for it. But we’re certainly going to do the Thanksgiving Project next year. And we’ll try to meet the need as much as we can,” she said.