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For those in need, here's where to find free Thanksgiving meals around Central Iowa

Thanksgiving is a time when community organizations come out with free meals to help everyone celebrate the holiday. Here's how to get one.

Elle Wignall Andrea May Sahouri
Des Moines Register
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Note: This article has been edited to correct the telephone number for ordering a pick-up meal or arranging meal delivery from the Parks Community Thanksgiving Dinner.

It's been a tough few years for Iowans — from the COVID-19 pandemic to the derecho, Iowans have come together to support and strengthen their communities.

The same goes for those who might be struggling during this holiday season. Budgets can be tight around the holidays with large family gatherings and gift buying, according to Michelle Book, CEO and president of the Food Bank of Iowa.

"The majority of the people we serve are folks that have a roof over their heads, they have a job, they have a vehicle... but they are struggling to make ends meet," Book said. "We see the biggest need at the end of the month, and both Thanksgiving and Christmas fall at the end of the month."

Many organizations in the Des Moines metro offer free Thanksgiving meal programs for neighbors in need, and the Des Moines Register has got you covered with all the program details.

More:These Des Moines metro malls and stores will have special Black Friday hours but are closed Thanksgiving

A heads up — many programs require people to sign-up in advance for a meal.

Here's a roundup on where families can enjoy free Thanksgiving meals this holiday season.

Parks Community Thanksgiving Dinner at Chuck's Restaurant

The Parks Community Thanksgiving Dinner has been a holiday tradition since 1984. In 2019, Chuck's Restaurant served more than 3,500 Thanksgiving meals with the help of 300 volunteers, according to the restaurant. 

The Parks Community Thanksgiving Dinner offers free meals that anyone can pick up or have delivered to their homes. Dine in won't be an option this year.

Thanksgiving meals are open to everyone — documentation or proof of income is not necessary. 

You can pick up your meal at Chuck's Restaurant on Thanksgiving Day from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 3610 Sixth Avenue, Des Moines. To sign up for a pick-up meal, call (515) 875-5229. 

For deliveries, there's an eight meal per household limit, and you must be present for the delivery. Deliveries are available to ZIP codes 50302, 50309, 50310, 50311, 50312, 50313, 50314, 50315, 50316, and 50317.

Meals will be delivered on Thanksgiving day between 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. To sign up for delivery, call (515) 875-5229.

More:Free Parks Community Thanksgiving Dinner, a Des Moines tradition, returns after 2020 COVID cancellation

The deadline to sign up for Parks Community Thanksgiving Dinner is Nov. 24 at noon.

Bidwell Riverside Center

Before Thanksgiving Day, meat packages are available to be picked up from the Bidwell Riverside Center at 1203 Hartford Avenue, Des Moines. 

The meat packages vary, but you'll be getting at least 10 pounds of meat. Meat packages are only available to people who have received services from the Bidwell Food Pantry in October or November of this year.

The center limits each household to one meat package.

To sign up for a meat package, text (515) 346-8895 and include first and last name and birthdate. You can also call and leave a message with the same information. A confirmation number will be provided.

Here are the pick-up dates and deadlines:

  • Nov. 9 from 8 to 10 a.m. The deadline to sign up is Nov. 5.
  • Nov. 11 from 4 to 6 p.m. The deadline to sign up is Nov. 8. 
  • Nov. 16 from 8 to 1 p.m. The deadline to sign up Nov. 12. 
  • Nov. 18 from 4 to 6 p.m. The deadline to sign up Nov. 15.
  • Nov. 20 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. The deadline to sign up Nov. 17.

A valid photo ID of an adult is required at pick up.

Christ the King Parish

The youth group of Christ the King, 5711 SW Ninth St., hosts Thanksgiving dinner at 6:15 p.m. on Nov. 24 in the parish hall. 

No registration is required, and the parish will have enough food to serve 300 people turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans, pie, lemonade, iced tea and coffee.

More:Thanksgiving turkey prices may be more expensive and birds harder to find. Buy your bird now, the experts say

Hope Ministries

Hope Ministries plans to serve in-person meals on Thanksgiving Day at its Hope Café from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The address is 1310 6th Avenue, Des Moines.

Thanksgiving meals are open to everyone — documentation or proof of income is not necessary.

Delivery is also available to these cities in the Des Moines metro: Altoona, Ankeny, Bondurant, Booneville, Carlisle, Cumming, Clive, Dallas Center, Des Moines, Granger, Grimes, Hartford, Indianola, Johnston, Martinsdale, Norwalk, Pleasant Hill, Polk City, Prole, Urbandale, Van Meter, Waukee and Windsor Heights.

To reserve your meal, call (515) 265-4277.

For deliveries, call (515) 265-4277 or fill out an online form.

The deadline to reserve a Thanksgiving meal is Nov. 17 at 4:30 p.m., but that deadline may come earlier if capacity is reached.

Living Waters Fellowship

From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Nov. 20, Living Waters Fellowship hosts its fourth annual Thanksgiving Meal Giveaway event, where organizers will serve 500 plates of food to the community. 

Event organizers ask that attendees register online, and meals will be available for pick up at 3000 SE 22nd St.

More:Closed on Thanksgiving: Des Moines metro malls, retailers skip early in-person Black Friday shopping hours for second year

South Des Moines Thanksgiving Meals

The South Gate Masons Lodge 657 plans to give 1,000 Thanksgiving meals for anyone who needs one.

Meals can be picked up or delivered, but pick up is strongly preferred due to limited drivers.

You can pick up your meal from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day at 1111 Randolph St., Des Moines.

To sign-up for a meal, click here to fill out the form. The deadline is Nov. 24, or until all available meals are ordered.

Waukee Christian Services

Holiday Dinner Boxes are available to qualified Waukee School District residents through Waukee Christian Services. Each box, free of charge, includes shelf-stable ingredients to help you prepare your holiday meal. Based on availability, boxes will include fresh ingredients such as eggs, butter, fresh vegetables and a turkey or ham.

Those interested must fill out an application here, and the deadline to register for a Thanksgiving box is Nov. 11. 

Boxes will be available for pick up on Nov. 19.

Dallas County residents are also eligible to use Waukee Christian Services' food pantry monthly, and no appointment is needed. Walk-in hours are Monday from noon to 6 p.m.; Tuesday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; and Saturday from 9 to 11 a.m.

More:When should I mail holiday cards and gifts? Here are the 2021 deadlines for U.S. Postal Service, FedEx, UPS

West Des Moines Services

West Des Moines Services' Holiday Assistance program is offering a $50 grocery food card for eligible West Des Moines residents. There is an income limit to apply.

To register for a gift card, visit the registration website and complete the form. Registration closes on Nov. 11 at 5 p.m.

Elle Wignall covers dining for the Register. Reach her at Follow her on Twitter @ElleWignallDMR.

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