Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission puts call out for Thanksgiving turkey donations amid shortage

Avian flu is spiking and experts say this year’s outbreak is on track to be the worst ever recorded. With Thanksgiving just weeks away, the scarcity will mean a price increase for shoppers, but even more so for charities who don’t need just one bird, but hundreds. 

Currently, Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission is hunting for 1,500 turkeys to feed the homeless and others who might need help putting food on the table this holiday.  

Early reports from charities elsewhere indicate they are spending three times their normal Thanksgiving budget. 

Ravon Johnson, the senior church partnership program manager at UGM, says the organization is hoping to bring in enough turkeys to feed at least 1,000 people or families this Thanksgiving. 

"We have a space that’s big enough for at least 1,500 turkeys," said Johnson. 

A large freezer is located in the Union Gospel Mission’s warehouse in Kent, where donations are stored and sorted.  

The mission may need more help than ever this year: the American Farm Bureau Federation reports that fresh, boneless turkey breast will cost 112% more than last year, at around $6.70. 

"What we do know is that there is a greater need. We are seeing that, we are having conversations with churches. We are having conversations with food banks, they are all talking about what the greater need there appears to be, what people are requesting from them," said Johnson.  

The US Department of Agriculture says the avian flu outbreak will also play a role in increasing prices and potentially causing shortages this fall. The USDA reports that the virus has killed about 6 million turkeys or around 14% of the US's population. The USDA estimates that the price per-pound of an eight to 16-pound turkey is $1.99-- up from $1.15 in 2021, a 73% increase.    

Despite the reports, the mission remains optimistic that the public will come through. 

"They say that there is a shortage, but we need the turkeys every year, so we are asking the public to help us provide these turkeys so we can cook them and provide these meals," said Johnson.

"They can eat a warm meal, get that home feeling, you know, and I think it’s great it’s awesome because a lot of people have nothing to eat out there," said Keith Oliver, the warehouse assistant at Men’s Downtown Seattle Shelter. 

Oliver previously served as a cook at the downtown Seattle men’s shelter and Anthony McInturff ate at a mission location for Thanksgiving while he was in a recovery program. They both believe in the power of generosity heading into the holiday season.

"I would say that, the gift is in receiving," said Anthony McInturff, a distribution center assistant.  "I have actually went through the Mission just about a year ago now.  I’m a mission employee. That took a little bit of time. I just continue to walk with the Lord, and he’s brought me this far." 

"The gift of giving, the gift of giving is to me, knowing that the other person is receiving. That’s a gift," said Oliver. 

"We want to make sure that no person who has a need, who is hungry, will go without a meal on Thanksgiving," said Johnson.

There are four locations where you can drop off the turkeys, including the warehouse in Kent.

"They can be dropped off in 4 different locations. Right here at the Seattle warehouse, at the downtown, at our historic men’s shelter location, women and children’s shelter on Othello St. or in Burien at our Riverton Men’s Recovery Center," said Johnson.