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Turkeys R Us face daunting challenge for Thanksgiving
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The Turkeys R Us drive for the last 13 years has made sure that every struggling household in Manteca, Lathrop, and Ripon had a turkey with all of the trimmings for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Last year, the community contributed  more than 1,000 frozen birds plus donated  well over $25,000 to purchase additional turkeys to make sure a combined 3,850 turkeys were provided to those in need on both Thanksgiving and Christmas.

This year, though, is shaping up as an even bigger challenge.

•Ethanol subsidizes have helped drive corn prices - the key ingredient for both turkey feed and the creating of ethanol - up to a price point that it is costing three times more per bird for farmers to feed. That in turn is expected to send the price of turkeys skyrocketing well past $1.20 a pound although supermarkets are expected to still run loss leader specials to snag the lucrative holiday food shopping customers.

•Unemployment is at 14 percent creating a bigger need.

•Food donations are already running tight that are needed to supply the 10 food closets in Manteca alone.

Even so, Sue Teunissen is optimistic that Turkeys R Us will meet their goal this year.

“We can do it,” said the Coldwell Banker Crossroads Real Estate agent who is coordinating this year’s effort with fellow agent LeAnn Nabb. “Manteca always comes through.”

The Second Harvest Food Bank works with Turkeys R Us to secure the best possible price by buying in bulk. Even so, Second Harvest Executive Director Mike Mallory notes that the fact turkey growers are being hammered with feed prices may make it tough this year to meet last year’s prices. It also means they may not get a price until after the first of November.

The bottom line is it will cost about $20 to provide a family of four with a turkey and around $50 for the main course and basic trimmings.

McNabb noted that is frugal as she easily spends two to three times that for her family’s holiday meal.

Teunissen noted while a small segment of people seeking help with Thanksgiving are on welfare, most are single mom households, households where one or two parents have been laid off or else had hours reduced, the elderly on severely restricted incomes, and those who have become gravely ill.

She said that the families typically will just have macaroni and cheese and other staples they can afford or get from regular food bank distributions for their holiday meals. The Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners have in the past fed the families for several days freeing up money to pay for PG&E bills and other essential expenses they can’t ignore.

Teunissen and Gail Fletcher launched Turkeys R Us 14 years ago after reading in the Manteca Bulletin that families in Manteca would go without a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Both thought that was wrong given they’d be celebrating with bountiful food with their families and friends on the day of thanks. So they asked around the office and asked friends for donations allowing them to buy 40 turkeys.

They took them to the food bank thinking they’d met the need only to be told it was a great help but local food closets were still 1,000 turkeys short. They were shocked to find out that there were that many struggling families in Manteca, Lathrop, and Ripon. After that year, they decided no one should go without if they can help it.

If you can assist Turkeys R Us, contact Coldwell Banker Crossroads (North and North Main Street in Manteca) at 823-8141. You can also call McNabb at 815-6754, Teunissen at 483-3365, or the second Harvest Food Bank at 239-2091.

If you have an actual turkey you’d like to donate, you can take it directly to the Second Harvest Food bank on Industrial Park Drive near the branch post office and indicate it is for Turkeys R Us. The drop-off can be done Monday through Friday before 4:30 p.m.