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Free turkeys will brighten the holiday for students staying in Pullman

Volunteers distributing food for Thanksgiving
Volunteers will distribute free turkeys and other Thanksgiving food to students in the Courtyard by Marriott parking lot on Saturday (photo by James Cole, Division of Student Affairs).

Washington State University students planning to stay in Pullman for the Thanksgiving holiday can sign-up to receive a free turkey and trimmings to make a complete Thanksgiving dinner.

Students can sign-up for the Thanksgiving food online, and Tiffanie Braun, associate director in the Center for Civic Engagement (CCE), said undergraduate, graduate, and professional students, are all welcome to request a meal. 

The food will be distributed on Saturday, Nov. 20, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., in the Courtyard by Marriott parking lot on Fairway Road.

Another big response anticipated

The turkey giveaway is part of Tom’s Turkey Drive, an annual effort to help people with food insecurity throughout the Inland Empire during the Thanksgiving holiday.

WSU’s Center for Civic Engagement, which manages the Cougar Food Pantry in the Compton Union Building, is partnering with the Council on Aging and Human Services (COAHS) and the Division of Student Affairs to make the Thanksgiving food available to students. 

Organizers will give away 80 frozen turkeys this year – 30 more than were available during WSU’s inaugural turkey distribution last year. Based on last year’s big response for the turkeys, Braun encourages students to sign-up early.

“There was definitely a lot of interest out there among students who are struggling in different ways,” Braun said.  “Providing these meals is key, especially for students working hard to make ends meet, while at the same time trying to excel in school.”

Each student selected will receive one frozen turkey, potatoes, stuffing, rolls, butter, green beans, and a gallon of milk – enough food to feed four to six people. Students who don’t have access to a car can request their food be delivered to their residence. 

Included with the food will be instructions on how to properly defrost a frozen turkey and recipes for preparing one.

Cougar Food Pantry joins network

Most of the food will come from local donations to Tom’s Turkey Drive held at Rosauers in Colfax. The drive helps feed 11,000 families in Whitman County. A $20 donation provides an entire meal and goes to Second Harvest, a nonprofit that supplies a network of partner food banks in Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho, which procures the food.

The food drive is coordinated by COAHS and supports all the pantries in Whitman County, including the Cougar Food Pantry located in WSU’s Compton Union Building.

COAHS Executive Director Paige Collins, a WSU graduate, said her agency officially welcomed the Cougar Food Pantry as one of its “supported sites” in July.

“This gives the Cougar Food Pantry access to emergency food distributors, advocates, educational opportunities, the Whitman County Food Coalition, and partners in solving hunger that they didn’t have, so it seemed to be a perfect fit,” Collins said. “I’m always happy to have any connection to WSU, especially one that directly helps students.”

Braun said the number of students seeking food assistance has grown exponentially since WSU opened the Cougar Food Pantry last summer in its centralized location. The pantry is visited by an average of 60 students per day.

“Working with the Council on Aging and Human Services to help feed students facing food insecurity is an amazing opportunity year-round,” Braun Said. “But it’s especially meaningful during this time of year.”

The Cougar Food Pantry will have reduced hours over the break. Students who need emergency food assistance can contact cougar.pantry@wsu.edu.

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