HOLYOKE — Undeterred by COVID-19, Kate’s Kitchen plans to serve more than 300 takeout Thanksgiving meals.
Typically, Kate’s Kitchen fills with volunteers eager to serve anyone who seeks a holiday meal and fellowship. The coronavirus pandemic limited this year’s feast to a grab-and-go affair, with two shifts of a half-dozen volunteers taking turns cooking and serving.
Mike Broussard, executive director of Providence Ministries, which operates the pantry, expects long lines outside 51 Hamilton St. He suggested diners show up around 11:30 a.m. Thursday, a half-hour before lunchtime.
On average, Kate’s Kitchen prepares meals for 150 diners on Thanksgiving. With COVID-19 forging a destructive path nationwide, twice that number is expected for this year’s event.
Kate’s Kitchen offers a daily lunch with no questions asked, a blessing for families whose school-age children continue to learn remotely. The Holyoke Public Schools and local organizations are also targeting hunger in the community.
Broussard said Kate’s Kitchen and Margaret’s Food Pantry, another Holyoke meal site run by Providence Ministries, have seen an onslaught of new clients.
“The numbers have jumped dramatically,” he said. “You have kids home from school, more people out of work, and more food insecurity going on right now.”
Before COVID-19, Kate’s Kitchen served 150 meals a day. The number rose to 250 or more since the pandemic’s start, with the pantry switching to takeout meals to help prevent the virus’ spread.
In 2019, Margaret’s Food Pantry doled out 1 million pounds of food. This year, the million-pound mark was reached by late August.
“We’re on target to double the amount of food we’ve given out over last year,” Broussard said.
A family donated food and sought additional donations from the community for Thanksgiving. Broussard thanked donors, volunteers and the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts for their support.
Volunteers will arrive at Kate’s Wednesday to begin preparing the meals, which include turkey breast with gravy, mashed and sweet potatoes, stuffing, rolls, dessert and a beverage.
A second crew will swap places with the cooks at 10:30 a.m. and ready for the surge of diners at noon.
Providence Ministries accepts nonperishable food and cash donations.
“We’re looking forward to continuing our mission in helping the community,” Broussard said.