Thanksgiving Turkey giveaway offers tough economics lesson

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Brian Watt/KPCC

Volunteers assemble trimmings at the Jackson Limousine Thanksgiving Turkey giveaway

Long lines of people waited earlier this week at the Jackson Limousine Service’s Thanksgiving Turkey give-away in South Los Angeles. In addition to more than 10,000 turkeys and the trimmings, the event also offered a tough economics lesson.

Businessman E.J. Jackson started this tradition almost 25 years ago when he gave away a few hundred turkeys. Now, he and his employees and helpers distribute more than 10,000. Jackson said a few factors made that harder to do this year.

"You know they tripled the prices of turkeys on me this year, and they did not want to send me turkeys here in Los Angeles area," said Jackson in the middle of the organized chaos that is a massive turkey giveaway. "We had to go outside Los Angeles to get turkeys because they felt that we were going to bring their little marketplace down. But it’s not about me, it’s not about them. It’s about the people."

People like Mona Williams of South Los Angeles, who waited in line for hours for the food, along with thousands of other people.

"The economy is giving us a lot of problems," she said as she waited with her bicycle. "It’s amazing how many people are out here due to that – blocks and blocks and blocks."

Williams works in a grocery store, and she's glad to have the job. But her hours have been reduced recently, and she doesn’t earn enough money now to cover rent and all her bills.

"That’s why I am here," she said quietly.

There was plenty of food for Williams and everyone else. Some people began lining up around 4 a.m. for a distribution that began at 8 a.m. Volunteers like Yvonne Parker worked day and night stuffing the boxes of trimmings they handed out with each turkey.

"I’m blessed to have food at home and I just want to help out any way I can," said Parker, who's been unemployed since June.

"I worked for a foster agency, and my program closed down," she said. "So I’ve been out there looking, and while I’m looking, I might as well give back. "

She and others topped off the food boxes with fresh fruits and vegetables, courtesy of the Value Produce Company. It’s contributed truckloads of produce to the effort for the last 10 years. Company owner Jesse Martin said that this year, there's a lot of fruit to give away.

"Because people are not buying it," he said. "People don’t have the money to go buy it. So what do we do? We give it away, instead of throwing it away.

The better to sweeten many Thanksgiving tables.

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