******Update: Friday, Nov. 17******
After a slow start, the Pocatello community has stepped up and donated hundreds of frozen turkeys to the annual Cranksgiving food drive. As of Friday, the total turkey count is 837, up from only 33 a week ago.
However, Cranksgiving organizers are striving for 1,000 frozen turkeys by Saturday morning. To donate, bring cash, a check or a frozen turkey to Barrie's Ski and Sports at 624 Yellowstone Avenue in Pocatello.
The turkeys will be donated to the Idaho Foodbank and will be used to give Southeast Idaho families in need a traditional Thanksgiving meal.
To read more about Cranksgiving and the hunger epidemic in Southeast Idaho, read the original story published online last week:
POCATELLO — Over the past few years, the annual Cranksgiving food drive has provided more than 2,500 frozen turkeys to the Idaho Foodbank in Pocatello.
In 2016 alone, organizers delivered 1,067 turkeys, which helped provide families in need across the region with a traditional Thanksgiving meal.
But despite the large number of birds donated to the food drive over the years, Tami Parris, who started Pocatello’s Cranksgiving food drive in 2014, said the event’s organizers are currently struggling.
As of Friday, only 33 turkeys and $1,100 have been donated towards this year’s Cranksgiving event. That leaves organizers with about one week left to meet their goal of supplying 1,000 turkeys to the Idaho Foodbank.
“This year we are hurting pretty bad,” Parris said. “We’re behind the curve.”
Being behind schedule with donations has been troubling for the people who work closely with Cranksgiving, including Parris and Barrie Hunt, the owner of Barrie’s Ski and Sports. Their goal is to make sure everybody in Southeast Idaho has a traditional holiday meal on Thanksgiving.
“We don’t want anybody to go hungry or be turned away,” Hunt said.
Jim Beitz, Eastern Idaho Branch Manager of the Idaho Foodbank, said hunger is an “enormous” problem in the region. His branch, which is located in Pocatello, serves 16 eastern Idaho counties and provides 28,000 people with food each month.
The only requirement for people to receive food from the Idaho Foodbank is to ask. However, that is difficult for many, as they tend to feel ashamed for the situation they find themselves in.
Beitz said those who ask for food at their facility at 555 S. First Ave. often stumble over their words when they ask for help.
“The vast majority of the people that we serve work for a living and they just don’t have enough,” he said.
However, Beitz said his organization is barely scratching the surface when it comes to addressing the hunger problem in the region. He said that food insecurity affects 51,000 people in East Idaho, including 9,000 children, which is far more people than his organization has reached.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture measures food insecurity as those who do not have access to enough food to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
In November each year, Beitz said food drives like Cranksgiving are important for his organization to ensure families in the region have a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Even with Cranksgiving donating 1,000 turkeys, he said his organization still doesn’t meet 100 percent of the need, but it does provide a positive impact.
Since Cranksgiving was started, the organizers have gotten a front row seat to the hunger problem in East Idaho.
During a previous food drive, Hunt recalls asking one gentleman to donate a turkey to Cranksgiving. The man’s response was both surprising and humbling.
“I asked him to come and bring a turkey, and he said ‘I’m one that needs a turkey. I got one last year and it was the best thing on my plate,’” Hunt said.
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.
Each year since then, Cranksgiving has received more and more turkeys from donors, and Parris doesn’t want to come up short this year.
“The reason we do this is because somebody has to do it,” Parris said. “Right now times are so tough that people need it more than ever, and I think it’s a good time for people to show their compassion and take care of one another.”
Those wishing to contribute to the event can donate a turkey or turkeys to the freezer at Barrie’s Ski and Sports. Donors can also provide cash or a check made out to “Cranksgiving” while at Barrie’s.
And owing to its roots as a biking event, cyclists will ride from Barrie’s at 624 Yellowstone Ave. and deliver the turkeys to the Idaho Foodbank on S. 1st Ave at the conclusion of the food drive on Nov. 18.
The bike ride is open to the public and begins at 10 a.m.
Ken Stanek, who manages the initial Cranksgiving event held annually in New York, said the Pocatello version is a bit different than the ones held out east, which are usually canned food drives held each November. Rarely are whole turkeys involved.
However, he said he has been impressed with Southeast Idaho’s efforts to feed families in need every autumn.
“I think 1,000 turkeys donated is incredible for any area,” Stanek said.