The day before Thanksgiving, a local organization was busy helping people in need of a good meal. Feeding Chittenden operates under the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity, and the organization held its free, sit-down Thanksgiving lunch at its Community Resource Center in Burlington.

Volunteers gathered bright and early at 6:00 in the morning to prepare food for hundreds. Staff members say they’re glad to have served so many people.

Food Service Manager Midhat Hadzic said, “this year we prepared more food than usual, we’re expecting to see around 200, up to 400 people.”

Throughout the day, about 30 volunteers helped get the job done. But Sous-Chef Jeanine Garella says the preparation started weeks in advance.

“Food insecurity is a real thing, and it effects all sorts of people, students, older people, just regular families,” Garella said. “We really would like to make sure we can get healthy ingredients out there to prepare the food we serve.”

The organization collected both perishable and non-perishable foods, as well as dining ware for the sit-down meal. It didn’t stop there; Feeding Chittenden continued to collect donations during the hours of the free meal.

Hadzic noted, “we are actually an essential service for people, providers for very, very essential needs, and that’s food.”

Garella explained, three days prior to the event is when staff starts to make sure all the food is prepped and cooked. “I love the work, I love the organization, and I feel like I’m doing good work,” she said.

Volunteer for Feeding Chittenden Mary Kanzler said, “it means the world to me to be able to give my time and give something to the people who really need it.”

Kanzler has been with the organization for four years. She explains how she likes to help; “to be able to give back to those people who don’t have the opportunity to go shopping or have a hot breakfast every single morning.”

If community members couldn’t stay to dine with Feeding Chittenden, they picked up free turkeys and holiday sides to-go. The free Thanksgiving lunch isn’t all the organization offers; community members can still drop off food and donations at the Burlington location to support the ‘Holidays Without Hunger’ campaign, which continues through the rest of the year.