Tiger Pride: Community works together to provide Thanksgiving meals for those in need.

November 19, 2021

Tiger Pride: Community works together to provide Thanksgiving meals for those in need.

Tiger Pride is a presentation of Shelby Public Schools in partnership with Oceana County Press.

By Allison Scarbrough, Editor.

SHELBY — Shelby Public Schools Food Service Director Mary Rose Vanas and her dedicated team of food service employees and community volunteers are making sure that local families in need can enjoy a Thanksgiving feast.

The group distributed turkeys, along with all of the other Thanksgiving supplies, via a drive-through distribution at the school on a cold Friday morning, Nov. 19.

“Last year we distributed 200, and this year 340 meals will be distributed,” said Vanas. “The need has increased significantly because of the cost of food.”

Inflation has driven up costs of many products, including groceries. Food prices are up 5.3 percent, according to the US Chamber of Commerce. The labor shortage, supply chain disruptions and higher demand for food since the COVID-19 pandemic are all contributing factors.

The food service department ordered the turkeys back in September to ensure there would be enough turkeys for distribution day.

Unlike last year when all of the ingredients were ordered from one store, Vanas said they had to order from several different stores and online companies this year. 

“What we do here at the school is we primarily look after our families.” 

This distribution is not only limited to Shelby families — families from all over Oceana County and even other counties are benefiting from the generous program. “We don’t discriminate where they’re from.”

The Ladder Community Center in Shelby received 50 meals to distribute, and the Fraternal Order of Eagles in Hart also received 41. These meal packages go to families without school-age children.

The community has really shown its love and support for this generous program that provides feasts valued at $51 each. An anonymous $10,000 donation through the Community Foundation for Oceana County was a large boost. The program is entirely dependent on local funds, said Vanas. The Oceana Eagles provided $3,000; the Ladder chipped in $1,500; the New Era Reformed Church contributed $1,000; and approximately $4,000 was donated by local community members who wished to remain anonymous.

With some extra funds, Vanas is relieved. “We have a start on some Christmas money as well,” she said. Her team will be back in action in December to provide yuletide meals for families.

Vanas is grateful for her team of food service workers and volunteers who distribute not only the holiday meals but the school meals every week. She credits Fran and Paul Schamber, Rick and Cathy Zoulek, Norma Ring and Todd Deuling. “They’re all volunteers, and they come every week.

“All of the staff of the food service team gets this all together. I want to thank all of the staff in food service in all of the Shelby schools.

“We have a lot of families at home because they may be in quarantine. The families who come here today get the food for their children for the week as well.”

Each Thanksgiving meal includes a 12-pound turkey, a gallon of milk, a 5-pound sack of potatoes, yams, all the fixings for a green bean casserole, stuffing mix and rolls. There are also added ingredients of marshmallows for the yams, a turkey gravy packet, butter, shortening, cranberry sauce, flour, sugar and whipped cream.

“Peterson Farms have been very kind. They donated all the fruit for every family to make a cherry and an apple pie. Each family gets two pints of cherries and two pints of apples.”

Vanas has observed the sad struggles of families trying to make ends meet. A family with seven children was out of milk for two days until they received food through the program. Not only is a lack of money an obstacle to getting food but so is transportation.

“Our challenge is to reach out to those who know that there is no judgment and we will come and give you the food you need to feed your children,” she said.

“Everybody should have a feast.”

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