Thanksgiving meals for all

The pandemic increases demand for holiday food giveaways, and distribution help.


For those who aren’t able to spend the holidays with loved ones, what is supposed to be a magical day can quickly become lonely. This year in particular, due to the pandemic, many more people are celebrating Thanksgiving away from family. Thankfully, several Island organizations are teaming up to bring delicious Thanksgiving meals right to people’s doorsteps.

For more than 30 years, the Martha’s Vineyard Center for Living, the Councils on Aging, Elder Services Meals on Wheels, and the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital have come together to distribute holiday meals to homebound elders or those who will be alone on Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving.

The Center for Living coordinates and provides funding for the initiative. The four Island Councils on Aging gather names of people in their communities who wish to receive the holiday meal. The councils, with the help of Meals on Wheels, are also responsible for finding volunteers who on Thanksgiving morning drive to the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital to collect the meals director of food and nutrition Chris Porterfield prepares with love. The meal includes everything expected for Thanksgiving: turkey, stuffing, gravy, and other essential accompaniments, as well as a hearty pie for dessert.

The initiative is expected to be much more popular than in previous years because the pandemic has prevented many people from traveling to enjoy the holiday with their family.

For an average year, this initiative distributes around 60 meals across the Island for a given holiday. Leslie Clapp, executive director for the Center for Living, explained that though registrations to receive meals are still open, the Edgartown Council on Aging already has 50 people on its list.

“People aren’t going places and families aren’t coming here, so there are just going to be more people who are looking to have this nice meal delivered to them, and see somebody and a nice face out on the porch to say happy Thanksgiving,” Clapp explained.

Oak Bluffs Council on Aging administrator Rose Cogliano said that last Easter, the town had 57 people on its list for the holiday, far surpassing any previously recorded number. Cogliano expects the same big turnout this season. Cogliano stressed that this program is all about community. ”People are delighted to participate in either receiving the meals or volunteering to distribute the meals.” Rose explained. “It’s been a wonderful experience for Easter, and now Thanksgiving is also working out to be a super experience.”

Up-Island Council on Aging assistant director Tanya Larsen is also expecting at least twice as many people as usual on her list. Echoing Cogliano, Larsen explained that however important this initiative always is, it is in tough times like these that community support becomes particularly important. “We have people who have lost spouses, or their family isn’t traveling, or they are not able to travel. So having that home meal is especially valuable this year.”

The Tisbury Council on Aging is looking for additional volunteers for its Thanksgiving and Christmas meal distribution initiative. If interested in helping, people can contact Joyce Stiles-Tucker at 508-696-4205, or via email at

Among the Island organizations that help out at the holidays, the Vineyard Committee on Hunger is also looking for help this year, especially with deliveries. Such a large group is expected this year that the Thanksgiving food giveaway is taking place at the Ag Hall on Friday, Nov. 20, at 1:30 pm.

The VCOH will give out Thanksgiving packages containing a choice of whole turkey, chicken, or turkey breast, along with bags of apples, oranges, potatoes, onions, spinach, stuffing mix — everything needed for a wonderful meal. Organizers say that the oranges were especially expensive this year, and they would benefit very much from any monetary donations from the community. Sends donations to Vineyard Committee on Hunger, P.O. Box 4685, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568.

Chef Deon’s Kitchen, based at the VFW in Oak Bluffs, also plans to serve Thanksgiving dinner, but this time to go. For the past 10 years, the kitchen has given back to the community by making a Thanksgiving Day meal; Chef Deon calls it “turning the tables.” This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they will give away individual prepared meals, packaged and ready to take home, from 12 to 7 pm on Thanksgiving Day. Just call ahead to 508-627-0330 or 508-693-9261 to reserve a meal.