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Houston’s Thanksgiving ‘Super Feast’ is overcoming supply chain challenges to feed tens of thousands


Organizers expect to serve between 25,000 and 30,000 families during the 43rd annual “Superman Day,” they told CNN. About 635,000 pounds of food are being cooked to serve as a hot meal. About 3,200 turkeys were cooked for the party, and another 15,000 are being distributed at a separate delivery location outside the convention center.

It’s been a tough year for a lot of people here in this part of Texas, Stephanie Lewis, the regional director of organizers Super Feast City Wide Club of America, told CNN. The Covid-19 pandemic is probably the main culprit, which has claimed the lives and livelihoods of countless people, Lewis said. But Devastating arctic frost hit Texas earlier this yearAlong with the high price of gas and food has made it impossible for families to choose.

“Some people have to make a decision to buy gas or buy food, buy gas or pay rent or utility bills,” Lewis said. “They’re working a lot to make a living.”

“There are hundreds of different types of goods in storage waiting to be shipped,” Lewis said. In previous years, Lewis explained, she simply bought in bulk. But to overcome this year’s challenges, Lewis started planning the event earlier and purchased smaller quantities of merchandise from a variety of suppliers.

The hardest-to-find items this year are frozen turkeys and paper goods, organizers said.

“If we as an organization are suffering like this, the impact on families is probably even bigger,” Lewis said.

Curlie Jackson cuts sweet potatoes for Super Thanksgiving.

Hungry in Texas

One in seven Texans is food insecure, according to the Houston Food Bank, which defines food insecurity as “a lack of consistent access to nutritious food that promotes a regular healthy lifestyle.” In southeastern Texas, this means about 1 million people, according to the Food Bank.
It’s a problem only exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic – not just in Texas – but nationwide, as coronavirus has contribute to the collapse of the supply chain That leaves some Americans without enough to eat.
CNN reported last month that shortage of labor and transport staff are making it harder and more expensive to pack food products and get them where they need to go. And a survey by the Federation of American Farm Bureaus shows that Thanksgiving dinner will cost Americans 14% more this year due to rising prices and economic disruption.
City Wide Club prepares turkey meals for tens of thousands of people on Thanksgiving through their Super Feast event in Houston, according to organizers.
Reply, local food bank and events like Super Feast are doing their best to solve the problem, despite their own challenges.

One such challenge is growing demand: Before the pandemic, the Houston Food Bank distributed about 500,000 pounds of food a day, according to the food bank. During the pandemic, food banks distributed between 800,000 and 1 million pounds of food per day.

However, it appears demand has shrunk from its peak: Last month, food banks delivered an average of nearly 688,000 pounds or so of produce per day — a 126% increase from October 2019, according to the Food Bank. Houston products.

Americans are suffering the worst of rising inflation

Back at the George R. Brown Convention Center, the organizers of the City Wide Club of America told CNN they were addressing the shortage of volunteers in addition to supply chain issues: They typically have between 6,000 and to 8,000 volunteers, but this year they have about 3,500 – a drop they believe is due to concerns about volunteering during the pandemic.

That didn’t stop Makeba Dorsey and her two sons, John and Donovan, aged 7, and 17, who volunteered on Wednesday, helping sort through incorruptible donations with dozens of volunteers.

She said Dorsey is battling cancer and she hopes volunteering teaches her sons to be grateful for what they have and the importance of giving back.

“I’m so grateful to be alive today and to be able to go out and help,” Dorsey said.

‘Love in action’

When Lewis entered the industrial kitchen inside the convention center Fourth, the area buzzes with the sounds of pans shuffling and knives hitting cutting boards.

Some volunteers marinated turkeys for a Thanksgiving meal and then dropped them in boiling water.

“I love to volunteer,” says Linda Jones as she retrieves spices from a makeshift pantry on a table with spices and canned vegetables stacked on top of each other. She was there volunteering with a group from the City Cathedral Church, she said.

Other volunteers were cutting sweet potatoes by hand, the sound of chopping reverberating from the walls. Volunteers like Curlie Jackson are also putting sliced ​​delicacies in bins for the chef.

When cutting sweet potatoes, Jackson said she enjoys volunteering because she loves meeting new people and getting rewarded.

At a few stalls, Robert Goins was shuffling pans of fresh tortillas from one cooling station to another.

Robert Goins has volunteered with City Wide Club's Super Thanksgiving Thanksgiving for 26 years.

“It’s a great opportunity to help,” says Goins.

This is Goins’ 26th year volunteering for he said. And although wearing a mask and social distancing while volunteering are different, the spirit of Thanksgiving, he said, is the same.

Leroy Woodard, a founding member of “Super Feast,” told CNN the event began decades ago in his grandmother’s kitchen. Decades later, he still volunteers today because it is “love in action.”

As for why Lewis continues to host the event more than four decades later, she said she wants to give back and give hope.

“I’ve lived a very fortunate life and I’ve always wanted to show people that there is help and hope on the other side of the tunnel,” Lewis said. “As long as you overcome the challenge, you will overcome the challenge.”

And as Super Thanksgiving comes to an end on Thursday, Lewis said her work has just begun: “On Christmas Eve, we’ll also be delivering toys and gifts for the kids, to brighten up a child’s life. their day,” she said.

CNN’s Rosa Flores reported from Houston, while Dakin Andone reported and wrote this story in Atlanta. CNN’s Gabe Cohen contributed to this report.

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