CORA hosts its second ‘Turkey Tuesday’ event

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PITTSBORO — The CORA Food Pantry held its second annual “Turkey Tuesday” holiday food drive last Tuesday to collect Thanksgiving meal essentials for the food insecure in Chatham County.

CORA — the Chatham Outreach Alliance — will be able to serve hundreds of families by giving them traditional Thanksgiving fixings, such as turkey, ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy and more after receiving over 400 turkeys, 75 hams and around 1,500 pounds of other food.

Pam Barker, a member of CORA’s board of directors and the co-chairperson of its food drive committee, said the idea for Turkey Tuesday came from a new CORA volunteer last year, Liz Guinan.

“They had done this in the state where she worked and where she previously lived [in Arizona],” Barker said. “We just thought it was a great idea, and so the rest is history.”

Rebecca Hankins, CORA’s development and communications director, said the holidays were an especially hard time for those who face food insecurity. The financial strain the holiday season brings often brings more individuals to the food bank.

“This time of year, we always see an increase in numbers of people coming to the food pantry,” she said. “The holidays can be stressful, and putting food on the table, if you’re already struggling with food insecurity, is hard.”

CORA has already seen the number of people coming to the pantry increase in the two weeks leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday — nearly doubling normal totals.

“The numbers this week have already jumped up,” Hankins said the week before the Turkey Tuesday food drive. “Last Monday we served 32 families, and this Monday we served 54 families, and we’re anticipating on serving 300 families this week alone.”

According to the Food Bank for Central and Eastern North Carolina 2020-2021 annual report, 9,100 Chatham residents — 13% — face food insecurity. When it comes to children in Chatham, 17% of those under the age of 18 are considered food insecure.

CORA aims to provide relief to the many low income and food insecure families in Chatham County. This year, the organization has helped to serve 11,276 people with food, as well as provide more than 1.2 million meals and enroll over 1,100 children in the Summer Nutritional Assistance for Chatham Kids — SNACK ­— program.

CORA is “dedicated to acquiring and distributing food to Chatham County residents who have a need for community support to keep themselves and their families fed, creating a community without hunger,” according to its website, and the annual holiday food drive is just one way for CORA to reach that goal.

“It’s hard for me to believe in our country of surplus that there are people that don’t have food,” Barker said. “It’s just about educating people to let them know how great the need is and the impact COVID has had this year with the increase in prices, inflation of food, and the scarcity of food that’s eaten has made it more difficult for our families.”

CORA usually sees a spike in people coming to the food bank around Thanksgiving and Christmas, and volunteers are already seeing an increase in food pantry patrons. After Tuesday’s event, Hankins said CORA has enough food to help accommodate the uptick in pantry patrons this holiday season.

“We literally packed every freezer we have and donated a few turkeys to other local organizations helping families,” she told the News + Record.

“We will be very busy through the end of December and will have plenty of food to give thanks to Chatham County and our many supporters,” Hankins wrote in a social media post. “We are very grateful to be able to serve those facing hunger this holiday season with bountiful bags of groceries and lots of smiles.”

Barker said while the Turkey Tuesday event was successful and will help provide food through the holidays, food insecurity doesn’t vanish after the holidays.

She said she remembers one of the first years she volunteered at CORA, the pantry was full from floor to ceiling with various holiday foods. Barker thought the food would last the pantry for weeks, but that wasn’t the case.

“I went away for a holiday and came back, and after two weeks at all that food was already gone,” Barker said. “It’s important for people to remember that even though the holidays are over food insecurity continues January through the rest of the year.”

For Hankins, Barker and everyone at CORA, the vision of a community without hunger is a year-long goal, not just one for the holiday season. By supporting food drives like the Turkey Tuesday event, community members can help in the fight against food insecurity in their own neighborhoods.

“I think that this community has stepped up time and time again in helping CORA and the families that we serve,” Hankins said. “I think it’s important for community to understand that many of our neighbors are facing hunger and by supporting an event like Turkey Tuesday, they’re helping the most vulnerable in our community.”

Reporter Taylor Heeden can be reached at


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