Thanksgiving is traditionally a day of plenty. However, putting all that food on the table can be a struggle on tight military budgets.
Many military families may qualify for Thanksgiving meal assistance from military support organizations.
Thanksgiving Meal Assistance for Service Members & Military Families
If your family could use a boost this holiday season, check out these great opportunities to build your festive feast.
Operation We Are Here
In 2010, Ken Ruff witnessed a young military family struggle to pay for their Thanksgiving meal. They had run into unexpected expenses after their soldier returned from deployment. Ken stepped in to pay for their groceries — under $20 total.
It bothered him that military families were unable to celebrate Thanksgiving with a good meal. That year, he pledged to help military families put food on the table during the holidays.
Currently, Holiday Meals for Military helps over 10,000 families in over 40 locations around the US. Meal kids include turkey, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, and veggies to feed a family of four.
Thanksgiving events end on November 17, but Operation We Are Here plans to host Christmas events in December. For more information, check out their Facebook page.
Sheep Dog Impact Assistance
Sheep Dog Impact Assistance offers a Thanksgiving meal program for the “sheep dogs” in our country. If you are currently serving, or have served, in the US military, with EMS, law enforcement, or fire and rescue, SDIA could help you have a happy holiday season.
The deadline to apply for SDIA’s Thanksgiving meal program is November 15.
The application requires proof of service, like a DD214 or other official document. SDIA also takes into account the number of people in your household, plus any dietary restrictions.
The goal is to provide families in need with complete Thanksgiving feasts on Turkey Day.
Armed Services YMCA
Each year, ASYMCA locations donate over 25,000 baskets of food to junior enlisted families in need during the holiday season.
Baskets may vary, but will likely include traditional Thanksgiving feast fixings.
To register for a basket, please visit your local ASYMCA.
Spirit of Sharing (S.O.S.)
Through their Adopt-a-Military-Family program, S.O.S. helps connect military families in need with resources to make the holiday season merry.
For families in need of assistance, S.O.S. accepts nominations of deserving families throughout the year into the Adopt-a-Military-Family program. Provide information about your family’s needs and military service through the online application to be considered for assistance in 2018.
Holding a festive holiday celebration when someone is deployed, missing, or your family is dealing with struggles can be hard. Soldiers’ Angels is here to help with their Adopt-a-Family holiday program.
Families must meet certain qualifying criteria to register. Once accepted, families are “adopted” by volunteers who aim to help them host a holiday to remember through donations and other assistance.
Other Local Organizations
For military families who will have trouble holding a Thanksgiving feast, there is also local help available.
Please reach out to the local branch of these organizations and services:
- United Way: many branches offer community Thanksgiving meals and/or Thanksgiving baskets to low-income families
- YMCA: some branches may offer Thanksgiving food assistance to families in need
- Food Banks: many local and regional food bank groups offer additional food and assistance to families during the holiday season
- Salvation Army: Salvation Army posts may offer community meals and/or holiday food assistance baskets to families in need
- USO: some locations may host meals for military families or troops or use the USO to help get connected with other organizations that offer Thanksgiving food assistance programs
- Veterans’ Service Organizations: your local VFW, American Legion, or similar groups may offer Thanksgiving assistance for families locally
- Banks and Credit Unions: many local branches may offer, or know about, a program in your area that provides assistance
- Grocery stores: many run food drives that are either independent from or connected with local food assistance organizations; contact a manager to learn more
Other Options for Food Assistance
For some families, that holiday budget might be tight but you might not quite qualify for food assistance programs. This holiday season, try these tips to bring things in under budget.
- Coupons: Be extra savvy with your coupon clipping and look out for deals that give you bonus offers. The Commissary is currently running a coupon deal that nets you money off of a turkey when purchasing participating products with a particular coupon. Look for the circular in your mailbox or your local Commissary!
- Potluck: Cut costs when you team up with other families for holiday feasts. Plan to split the costs of the turkey or another main course, then provide family-style sides and dessert to share.
- Keep it small: Turkey might be traditional, but chicken can be a whole lot cheaper. Switch out your feast items for similar, but less costly, items. Use chicken instead of turkey, make homemade gravy, and consider reducing the number of sides to keep costs in check.
How do you keep your holiday meal budget in check? Share your cost cutting ideas, or places to seek assistance near your military base, in the comments!