Three volunteers stand around a table piled with dozens of boxed food items.
Volunteers assemble Thanks for Giving meal kits for Cobb County families on Nov. 17. (Emma Buker/Fresh Take Georgia)

A Cobb County nonprofit began the holiday season by providing 1,000 local families facing housing insecurity with Thanksgiving dinners for its 38th annual meal drive. 

For nearly 40 years, the Center for Family Resources has provided Cobb County families with boxes containing ingredients to cook their own Thanksgiving meals. The “Thanks for Giving” program allows those who cannot afford to buy a Thanksgiving dinner a chance to cook a traditional meal with their family. 

The center assists families who are homeless or facing housing insecurity. The organization has provided critical aid to those who need it for more than 60 years.

In December, the Center for Family Resources will open a Client Choice pantry just in time for the Christmas and New Years holidays. Not only will families have a direct say in what food they receive, but they will have healthy options as well. The health benefits of fresh ingredients and homemade meals are better than canned or prepackaged foods, said the nonprofit’s CEO Melanie Kagan.

A single mother from Cobb County, who asked to be identified by her nickname “Kiki,” said she would not have been able to provide her family with a Thanksgiving meal this year without the help of the Center for Family Resources.  

Kiki liked CFR’s Thanks for Giving program because it provided her with a box of ingredients instead of a pre-made meal, allowing her to cook her own family’s Thanksgiving dinner. 

“It’s good to just have the ingredients to put together something,” Kiki said.

Other recipients of the food donations echoed Kiki. They declined to be interviewed for this story.

Christal McNair, the development director for the CFR, said the goal of this program is to feed 1,000 people in the Cobb County area.

“Families want to build their own traditions,” McNair said. “They want to make their own family meals and have their own kitchen experience.”

According to Feeding America, 1 in 9 Georgians, more than 1.1 million people, will struggle with food insecurity and could go hungry this holiday season. According to data from Science for Georgia, 13% of Georgia’s population is food insecure.

McNair said the boxes given to families contain more than just enough ingredients to make a Thanksgiving meal for the whole family. There are snacks and breakfast foods to feed the children the week they are out of school. Each box weighs between 60 and 70 pounds. 

“There’s tuna, canned ravioli, kid-friendly items, fruit snacks, and cans of fruit,” McNair said. “There’s all the things you’d need for Thanksgiving. You’ve got your stuffing and your yams. We have dried beans, green beans, corn, you name it. It’s all in the box.”

The center’s goal is to provide food for 1,000 Cobb residents, but it regularly exceeds that goal. Kagan said volunteers assembled more than 800 boxes in 2023. Those boxes fed almost 2,000 people, including 100 residents who live in Cobb’s senior centers.  

Kagan said 400 volunteers are needed throughout the week to complete an operation as extensive as the Thanks for Giving program. Despite the workload, Kagan said it is worth it. 

“At the end of the day, what we really want is our clients to have dignity and feel like they have some choice in what’s happening to them,” Kagan said. “We want to make sure people feel like they’re doing something for their families, to empower them.”

For more from Fresh Take Georgia and the latest updates, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.