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Coronavirus Changes How Soup Kitchens Provide Thanksgiving Meals

Maria Scapellato 90.5 WESA

Soup kitchens are typically busy places on Thanksgiving Day. They have always offered people in need a place to come in from the cold and share a turkey dinner with their neighbors in the community. But this year, the pandemic has made feeding the hungry a less personal experience.

Places like the Jubilee Kitchen in the Hill District will still be serving meals to feed 80 to 90 people on Thanksgiving Day. But, Director of Operations Paulette Blasko said to ensure no one is exposed to coronavirus, the food will only be available for pick-up.

“We’ll have to pack it up in containers and let them take it home for their families or just for themselves,” Blasko said.

The Rainbow Kitchen in Homestead is also only offering to-go Thanksgiving meals. Executive Director Donna Little says the need for food assistance for people living in the Mon Valley communities that her organization serves has continued to grow since the start of the pandemic.

“It hasn’t leveled off. It hasn’t started going down,’” Little said. “With the holidays coming up and winter coming on, we’re expecting to get even busier in the months ahead,” Little added.

Blasko said she’s has seen a shift in who is coming to the Jubilee Kitchen. She said some people who have a home are staying inside to protect themselves from contracting the coronavirus. But she’s also noticed a new group of people are seeking help.

“We’re getting some families in the area because children are at home and they need the extra food,” Blasko said.

Both organizations are also operating with fewer volunteers at both their soup kitchens and food pantries. With the cases of coronavirus surging across Pennsylvania, Little said it’s not safe to bring more people than necessary into their building.

“We would normally have a group of volunteers doing the preparation and serving but this year, it will be our staff,” Little said. “We are not having volunteers in general at Rainbow Kitchen right now to protect the volunteers and protect our staff and the people we are serving.”

With volunteering not an option for the public right now, Little said donations are the best way to help. “If you’re fortunate enough to be working steadily, this is a good time to give back and help your fellow human beings get through this,” Little said.

For Blasko, her wish for the coming months is simple.

“We need our staff to stay healthy by wearing masks and distancing and we ask when someone comes to our door for food that they have a mask on,” Blasko said.

The Jubilee Kitchen is located at 2005 Wyandotte Street in Pittsburgh. Thanksgiving meals will be available for pick up from 11 a.m. until noon on Thursday. The Rainbow Kitchen at 135 E Ninth Street in Homestead will also offer grab and go meals from 10-11 a.m. on Thanksgiving day.