Newark Officials, Organizations Host Citywide Turkey Distributions, Reach Thousands of Residents Ahead of Holiday

Amid rising prices at local food stores spurred by inflation in recent months, even the most modest Thanksgiving Day dinner could run a hefty grocery store bill for many American families living paycheck-to-paycheck. 

Mindful that thousands of Newark residents were economically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic last holiday season, the mayor noted that this year presents a new set of challenges for many families.

“There are people already in the city who need turkeys, but I think that this year you will probably see a little bit more people who you don’t normally see in a line getting turkeys,” he said. “You’ll see other people as well trying to budget for the holidays and make sure that any money they can save on food to use it for something else, I’m sure they’re going to do it.” 

Joining Baraka at the Clubhouse to hand out goods to residents was Central Ward Councilwoman LaMonica McIver, who echoed the mayor’s sentiments. 

“Prices are up and residents are dealing with much more these days even than they were in the past couple of years,” said McIver. “We just want to make sure that we are providing for our residents and taking a load off as we can.”

More than 5,000 turkeys are expected to be distributed to residents across the city’s five wards as part of the “Newark Gives Thanks'' initiative. The partnership brings the city together with the Believe in Newark Foundation to help distribute turkeys in addition to 7,000-plus cans of veggies donated by co-sponsor Green Giant Vegetables and 5,000-plus boxes of assorted produce provided by HelloFresh

In addition to the city’s efforts to provide as many residents as possible with a meal this holiday season, other Newark area elected officials will be found at senior buildings, schools and churches across the city this week through the efforts of North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos, Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz (D-Newark), Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin, City Council President Luis Quintana, Councilman Carlos Gonzalez as well as the mayor.

Over the next two days, Ramos and his team are planning to distribute thousands of turkeys, pies and non-perishable goods at more than 30 locations. 

One of the team’s stops early Monday morning included the Branch Brook Park Manor retirement building where the North Ward Councilman noted that distributions like this around the holidays are particularly important for the city’s senior residents. With prices on the rise, Ramos said that seniors who rely on fixed incomes and sparse government assistance can’t be overlooked. 

“The rising cost of food definitely impacts them,” Ramos told TAPinto Newark. “Any little bit helps.”

For Sen. Ruiz, teaming up with the councilman and other area officials for distribution events has been a staple effort during the holiday season dating as far back as 2006. As Ruiz and Newark School Board Member Jospehine Garcia went around table-to-table at Branch Brook Park Manor to hand out food to residents, the senator explained that these events play a vital role in an elected official’s duties to ensure families have food security and a meal to sit around at the table this Thanksgiving. 

“This is the best opportunity we have in politics - to use any and all resources that we have individually as elected officials to make sure that our residents get what they need,” said Ruiz. 

Among the many senior residents who received a pie that will surely be enjoyed at dessert time on Thanksgiving Day after a share of turkey meat was Carmen Crespo, a resident of six years at Branch Brook Park Manor. 

Although Crespo spoke hardly any English, talking in Spanish through a friend of hers at the building, she was straight to the point when asked what it meant to her to be handed an assortment of food for the holiday. 

“I’m grateful,” said Crespo. 

In Newark, elected officials have for years hosted turkey distributions ahead of the holiday season as a way to reach out to residents. After all, a free turkey and a handshake isn’t a bad plan to curry favor with the electorate.

But it’s not just elected officials who turn out to give back during the holiday season. With turkeys a-plenty all around the city, many area nonprofits step up their efforts as well to reach as many residents as possible. 

In the West Ward, local community outreach organization United Community Corporation was joined by a familiar face around town in that of US Sen. Cory Booker for a distribution event that reached hundreds of residents. 

At the end of a long line of donated clothes, toiletries and bagged groceries, Booker, a former Newark mayor, could be found back at his old stomping grounds to hand off a coveted Thanksgiving Day turkey to residents. 

“UCC’s tradition of helping the community goes back longer than I have been alive, and I’m just grateful to come here and help out,” Booker told TAPinto Newark. “I have been working with this organization even before I was a city councilperson.” 

Indeed, UCC has been a prominent presence in the community for years. There’s never a shortage of residents in line at almost any UCC outreach event, where the nonprofit oftentimes provides groceries, hot meals, holiday gifts, toys and costumes, and an array of essential services that directly help many underserved families.

This year was no different. UCC handed out more than 300 turkeys at West Side Park along with bags of groceries to complement Thanksgiving meals.

“To see the need of the community - especially after a pandemic and during inflation - the people come out, and they need us,” said David Baquerizo, a UCC shelter supervisor. “We’re here to support them, and it’s a great feeling to see lines of families come out when they don’t have to spend that extra $40 on a Thanksgiving meal. They’re provided for free by our agency.”

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published this page in News and Politics 2021-11-23 02:03:27 -0800