From farms to food banks this Thanksgiving holiday

Not everyone eats turkey this Thanksgiving holiday. Some DC-area residents are eating locally-produced chicken in an effort to link farmers with food banks.

Not everyone eats turkey this Thanksgiving holiday. Some DC-area residents are eating locally-produced chicken in an effort to link farmers with food banks.

Jacob Gilley is with the American Farmland Trust. His organization partnered with the Mid-Atlantic Food Resilience Access Coalition to provide hundreds of chickens to food banks and nonprofit organizations in Prince George’s County, Maryland.

Gilley said three different poultry farmers were able to supply those in need with “really nutritious, high-quality poultry this holiday season.”

The deal is a win-win situation, he said, with growers being paid by nonprofit organizations, which get grants to make the purchases. The food is then provided to people who would otherwise go hungry.



Among the beneficiaries is the River Jordan Project in Accokeek, Maryland. The Rev. Tierney Screen, co-founder of the River Jordan Project, said her organization received and distributed 200 chickens last week. Some of the people the Jordan River Project helps are older, Screen said, adding that smaller birds are easier to prepare, serve and store than a larger turkey.

Screen also mentioned safety as an issue in food preparation.

“As we get older, our strength goes down a bit,” he said, so handling a heavy bird in a large roasting pan could be dangerous for some.

Chicken will also fit in a normal home freezer, while turkey takes up a lot of space. Also, many older recipients may not be able to use it all before the leftovers go bad.

“So the chickens are perfect!” She said screen.

Another part of the Jordan River Project’s outreach includes information and classes on how to create healthy meals and an active life.

“I talk to our seniors about food as medicine,” Screen said, and having access to locally grown food is part of that effort.

Gilley said that pasture-raised chickens that are raised locally do not have water or brine added.

“So when you cook that chicken, it just retains a lot of the moisture” that is naturally in the bird, Gilley said. “In our house, we will bake a chicken. And then, we’ll take those leftovers and maybe make enchiladas or… you can make soups… and expand your culinary horizons.”

This Thanksgiving holiday, Gilley said he is grateful to the Mid-Atlantic Food Resiliency Access Coalition and all the nonprofits that decided to distribute chickens this year.

Gilley said managing fresh versus non-perishable food can be tricky for food banks and other organizations, but at the end of the day, “you’re creating better, longer change.”

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