It's estimated two out of five people in San Luis Obispo County are facing food insecurity, meaning they don't have consistent access to food.
Foodbanks in both San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties along with nonprofits across the Central Coast are now in overdrive, working to make sure everyone can have a meal on Thanksgiving.
On Wednesday, Grassroots held its annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner in San Luis Obispo, an event they say was scaled back due to COVID-19.
"Generally we have people who drive out to people's houses and drop off, but because of the concerns of a lot of face-to-face time, we're asking people if they can drive up or have someone pick up a group of meals," said Heather Todd, a Grassroots volunteer.
Grassroots prepared 1,500 meals to help those in and around San Luis Obispo and in North County, another 1,500 meals are getting prepared for distribution Thursday morning in Paso Robles.
Instead of seating charts, volunteers with Thanksgiving for Paso Robles have created assembly line maps to try to seamlessly navigate the massive undertaking.
"Typically we have a sit-down dining experience. This year, it's all to-go, so it's a drive-thru. People will drive-thru St. Rose Church on Creston Road in Paso Robles from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday," said event organizer Jennifer Bravo.
While these types of efforts are helping thousands across the Central Coast, the SLO Food Bank says the pandemic has caused thousands more to still need help after Thanksgiving.
"The rate of hunger increased 154% compared to the beginning of the year. Before we used to share one in six people are facing hunger, which already was a tragically high rate for SLO County, but now if you do the math - the numbers shake out to about two in five are struggling with hunger and facing tough decisions on whether or not they can put food on the table or pay their bills," explained Branna Still, development director of the SLO Food Bank.
In San Luis Obispo County, free meals on Thanksgiving can be picked up at:
- Los Osos Cares @ South Bay Community Center from 4:30p - 5:30p
- Morro Bay Lions Club @ Morro Bay Community Center from 1p - 3p
- Thanksgiving For Paso Robles @ St. Rose Church from 11a - 2p
In Santa Barbara County, the Salvation Army is offering free meals and a new bag of clothes in Santa Maria.