GMHC kicked off the holiday season for our clients with a bountiful Thanksgiving meal distribution. Our Meals and Nutrition staff provided bags of tasty holiday-themed ingredients, supplemental gift cards, and a specially designed recipe book. Our clients will have all the fixings for a delicious, nutritious dinner for friends and family.
“We want to do something extra for our clients, because they deserve something special for the holidays,” said GMHC’s Meals and Nutrition program director, Melissa Gallanter.
“Food continues to be more expensive due to inflation, which can prevent our clients from being able to enjoy a special holiday meal,” Gallanter said. She noted that supplementary SNAP benefits for COVID-19 ended last February. “We are not only responding to the very immediate food need, but also including holiday support and warmth. There is so much love that comes with our food.”
The majority of GMHC’s Meals and Nutrition program clients are over the age of fifty and living with HIV and AIDS. This is a higher-risk group that needs more support, Gallanter explained, adding that most are LGBTQ+ people of color.
Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, an in-person Thanksgiving dinner for hundreds of people would not be safe, since so many clients are immunocompromised. Instead, the Meals and Nutrition staff organized the Thanksgiving meal distribution the week of November 13 at our office at 307 West 38th St.
GMHC staff and volunteers packed 550 bags in advance with all the fixings for a hearty Thanksgiving dinner. The meal bags included mac & cheese, green beans, sweet potatoes, and corn. Cooking supplies from the pantry included staples like olive oil, spices, stuffing mix, and flour.
Beyond the food, Gallanter said, the Thanksgiving distribution days are about bringing the GMHC community together. “We get a lot of responses from our clients when they sign up about how much it means to them,” she said. “‘I could not do Thanksgiving without you,’ and ‘Thank you for caring about us during the holidays,’ they will say. That means so much to me.”
GMHC Director of Wellness Donna Pine and special volunteers distributed the meal bags, along with $50 gift cards so clients could buy their protein of choice. The gift cards were quickly spoken for during an advance sign-up, Gallanter said. “Clearly, the need for food has increased,” she said.
To help our clients make a delicious dinner, the Meals and Nutrition staff also distributed a mini-cookbook in English and Spanish with simple Thanksgiving-themed recipes created by staff nutritionist Julia Fickenscher. The recipes are designed so that all the ingredients for a meal serving four to six people can be bought with the $50 gift card. Each recipe also includes a shopping list.
“The recipe book was a real group effort. I am so excited about it,” Gallanter said. “It’s a very accessible way to provide tasty and nutritious meal guidance to our clients.”
Holiday Food and Festivities
GMHC’s Transgender, Gender Non-Conforming, and Non-Binary (TGNCNB) Hub clients gathered for their own Transgiving Community Dinner on November 16 at Dallas BBQ, located at 261 8th Ave—a holiday tradition marking its fifth year.
“We are our Ancestors!” was the theme for this empowering evening of food, conversation, and fun. Two incredible guests, Elisa Crespo, the CEO of New Pride Agenda, and Ace Sutherland, the director of Community Organizing for Equality New York, inspired and informed our TGNCNB community with workshops about growth, transformation, and initiating change.
Gallanter emphasized that the holiday meal distribution for Thanksgiving is in addition to GMHC’s monthly Grab n’ Go pantry pick up, which supplies shelf-stable food to our Meals and Nutrition clients.
GMHC also resumed serving hot lunches on Tuesdays and Thursdays over the summer. Since then, attendance has increased to between 100 and 120 clients for each meal, Gallanter said. The agency aims to expand the lunch program to Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays as resources allow.
Learn more about GMHC’s Meals and Nutrition programs here.