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Ames Food at First to serve Thanksgiving meal to-go this year

Kiley Wellendorf
Ames Tribune

The annual Thanksgiving meal prepared and served by Food at First on Thursday will continue to feed residents this year, though dining side-by-side with community members is out of the question due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We've gone through every scenario we could think of," said Patty Yoder, executive director of Food at First. "The church is still a locked building, so it will be completely carry-out or delivery."

Yoder noted that it's largely different than in year's past, where folks would traditionally be able to enjoy conversation while eating the home-cooked meal next to others. 

"We still wanted to at least make the homemade Thanksgiving meal and try to bring some cheer to those that need it," Yoder said.

The meal can be picked up at First Christian Church, 611 Clark Ave. in Ames, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Face masks are required. 

Volunteers (clockwise from left) Lauren Loonsfoot, Rae Vogl, Gerri Bugg and Megan Scherson arrange cranberry sauce while preparing Food at First Thanksgiving meals at First Christian Church Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020, in Ames, Iowa.

"Thanksgiving will be slightly different in 2020, no indoor seating, only carryout, but the message has not changed: Food at First is thankful for its many volunteers today and every day, the many donations and gifts, the thousands of hours of dedication, and all the people that FAF is able to help make a brighter day," the organization wrote online.

Adjusting the tradition 

This year, Food at First is planning to cook around 700 to 800 meals, which include traditional items such as turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, homemade stuffing, green bean casserole, and homemade cranberry sauce. 

New additions to the menu include fresh fruit as well as pumpkin bars with cheesecake frosting; in years past, homemade pies were the traditional dessert for the meal, though due to COVID-19, the organization swapped out the pies cooked by community members for the homemade bars.

Meals can be picked up directly at the church, or can also be delivered. Yonder anticipates meal deliveries will be a popular option in contrast to pick-up, she noted. 

Volunteer Patty Yoder bakes cakes while preparing the Food at First Thanksgiving meals at First Christian Church Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020, in Ames, Iowa.

"I feel like its going to be flipped a little as far as the number of meals we used to deliver," Yonder said. "I think those are going to be above the number that walk through."

Another change in the upcoming month is the cancellation of this year's Christmas meal, according to Yoder. The decision to not have a large meal this year was made prior to the pandemic. Food at First will instead provide a smaller meal, similar to what is offered day-to-day, Yoder said.

"We just kind of decided that we aren't capable of doing more than one large event," Yoder said. "Besides, we also do our gift giveaway in December — it was so many events."

Volunteer Alice May bakes cakes while preparing the Food at First Thanksgiving meals at First Christian Church Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020, in Ames, Iowa.

Though the dining-in option will not be available, the dining space — in addition to the kitchen — will now be used to help volunteers spread out and prepare the meals, according to Yoder. Those assisting are expected to wear a mask during volunteer shifts.

"I’m trying to keep that number down because of COVID, and we’re very, very strict about appropriate usage of mask and sanitizing and gloves and all of those measures," Yoder said. 

Those interested in volunteering on Thanksgiving are able to sign up online at the Food at First website

Volunteers (clockwise from left) Gerri Bugg, Megan Scherson, Lauren Loonsfoot and Rae Voglarrange cranberry sauce while preparing Food at First Thanksgiving meals at First Christian Church Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020, in Ames, Iowa.