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How you can sign up for a free Thanksgiving meal in Richmond

Posted at 5:07 PM, Nov 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-22 18:17:28-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- While many families are looking ahead to all the delicious food they’ll eat on Thanksgiving, others are wondering how to afford a meal. With food insecurity heightened by the pandemic, one organization is on a mission to feed as many people as possible.

“Today is all about turkey,” Matt Smythe said.

When Smythe prepares the perfect turkeys for thousands to enjoy, he keeps his 3 C’s in mind.

“All cooked, cooled, and carved,” he said.

With the smell of Thanksgiving turkeys filling the halls of the Richmond Convention Center, Smythe and other volunteers with “The Giving Heart” get ready for the annual Community Thanksgiving Feast.

Thanksgivng dinner The Giving Heart.png

“Later on in the week, we'll move into the stuffing and mashed potatoes and green beans and all the fixings that you can imagine,” said Smythe, who coordinates all operations in the kitchen.

The non-profit aims to reach 4,000 people this year. This comes as a report by Governor Ralph Northam’s office found the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in 150,000 more food-insecure Virginians than previous years.

“The demand has been there, and it is changing, evolving as society does,” Smythe said. “And dealing with the pandemic in a variety of ways.”

Smythe, who works in the hospitality industry, said he feels a strong motivation to do his part in eliminating hunger.

“People being hungry is an issue I believe we can cure as a society,” Smythe explained. “I believe it's something we should cure.”

In a normal year, families would pack the convention center, sit down, and eat together. However, with Coronavirus still around, all meals will either be delivered or picked up for the second year in a row.

Another pandemic challenge has been shortages of certain food items, but thankfully, Smythe said The Giving Heart has avoided those obstacles.

“The supply chain issues are very real,” he said. “We've been lucky enough from the supporters and the folks who donate to The Giving Heart that we've been able to get ahead of most of those.”

Among those supporters is Betty Garrett. She stopped by the convention center Monday to help carve turkey after it was cooked and cooled.

“I think it’s an important thing to be able to support others who may not have what I have,” she said.

Garrett said giving back is in her blood.

“That’s the way I’ve always been,” she explained. “I’ve always worked for other people and wanted to do the right thing.”

New this year, two unique sets of volunteers will be joining the efforts: students and soldiers.

“We do have some students with Richmond Public Schools who are helping out and then some soldiers coming up from Fort Lee to spend Thursday with us and make sure the kitchen runs well and on time,” Smythe said.

You can sign up for a curbside pickup meal by clicking here.