POCATELLO — On Friday, Nov. 10, the organizers of the annual Cranksgiving food drive were deeply concerned.
Every year, the event receives donations of frozen turkeys to give to the Idaho Foodbank so East Idaho families in-need have a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Last year, Cranksgiving organizers were able to donate 1,067 frozen turkeys.
But Tami Parris, who founded the event in Pocatello in 2014, worried that the donations were going to come up well short of their goal of 1,000 turkeys this year.
Eight days before the conclusion of the food drive, Parris said organizers only had 33 turkeys.
“We were very concerned we weren’t going to make it,” she said.
But thanks to the gracious support of the community, donations surged during the food drive’s final week, with more than 1,000 birds being donated. In the end, a total of 1,096 turkeys were donated to feed families in need, the most that Cranksgiving has ever raised.
“We all want to thank the community for the support,” Parris said.
Owing to its roots as a biking event, Cranksgiving always concludes with a group of cyclists pedaling to the Idaho Foodbank at 555 S. First Ave. to help deliver the turkeys. At this year’s ride, which was held last Saturday and began at Barrie’s Ski and Sports, Parris arrived early.
She recalls watching one person after another dropping off frozen turkeys, even as organizers made preparations to begin the bike ride. After the approximately 40 to 50 cyclists made their way to the Idaho Foodbank, the donations continued to come in.
After the bike ride, turkeys were provided to local residents in need at the fairgrounds in Pocatello. For the volunteers distributing the birds, it provided a glimpse into the hunger epidemic in the region.
The Eastern Branch of the Idaho Foodbank in Pocatello serves 16 eastern Idaho counties and provides 28,000 people with food each month. However, the organization said food insecurity affects approximately 51,000 people in East Idaho, including 9,000 children, which is far more people than the organization has reached.
Food insecurity is a measure of how many people do not have enough food to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Barrie Hunt, who helped distribute the turkeys at the fairgrounds, said the line of vehicles extended out onto Olympus Drive. One family thanked Hunt for their turkey, but said that even though they now had food for Thanksgiving, they weren’t sure where the following meal would come from.
“They don’t go out begging,” he said about those receiving turkeys. “They work for a living, trying to support their families."
Known as a “food drive on two wheels,” Cranksgiving was originally started in New York City in 1999 and has expanded to approximately 80 cities across the globe through grassroots efforts.
Parris launched a version of Cranksgiving in Pocatello in 2014 after she heard about the food drive on NBC’s Today show. When she heard that the Idaho Foodbank needed 600 turkeys for Thanksgiving that year, she teamed up with Barrie’s Ski and Sports and state Sen. Roy Lacey to meet the quota.
Since its inception, Pocatello’s version of Cranksgiving has donated almost 4,000 frozen turkeys to the Idaho Foodbank for each Thanksgiving.