Celebrities giving away free food doesn’t freakin’ help the poor

Head shot of a real live turkey

You can tell it’s Thanksgiving when the media begins covering celebrities donating packaged turkeys to “families in need.” That or when celebrities are volunteering at a local soup kitchen serving food. This annual gesture is meant to capture the spirit of caring and helping others. But how effective is handing out turkeys for impoverished communities? I argue that there is a better alternative. 

What’s wrong with Turkeys

The impact of giving away a packaged product only has a direct contribution for two parties: the seller of the product and the person receiving the product. In other words, the celebrity that purchases the turkeys is providing cash flow for the turkey company and providing one meal to each family. The end result is that the turkey company increases in profit and the families receive food support for just one day.

There is no ripple effect for the community.

Likewise, volunteering at a soup kitchen has the same limited impact. Families are fed for one day while an unsustainable volunteer model is supported. Soup kitchens are dependent on donations which vary throughout the year and are mostly seasonal. There is a lack of volunteers and donated foods because there is no incentive for people to give away their time and resources continually on a day-to-day basis.

By volunteering at a soup kitchen celebrities are promoting a band-aid solution to the underlying issue: poverty.

A Better approach to donating Turkeys on Thanksgiving?

Win-Win-Win Approach: An alternative approach is for celebrities to pay the Thanksgiving meals families purchase at local restaurants. This can be executed in various ways but the idea is for celebrities to coordinate with restaurants in the neighborhood to provide one meal to families at the restaurants on Thanksgiving.

The families will be like any other client and have the choice to order anything off the menu with the celebrity covering the bill. The celebrity can decide to reserve the entire restaurant just for this purpose. Given the volume of the families and limited space of one restaurant, this should be coordinated with many restaurants around the neighborhood. The overall cost may be very similar to the previously mentioned approaches, but the key difference is that there is a longer lasting impact.

By providing a hungry family a meal at a local restaurant, the celebrity is supporting a local business. In order for a poverty-striken neighborhood to flourish the local businesses must lead the community with their success. A profitable business eventually expands and creates jobs by hiring more employees.

For local businesses, this means more job opportunities for the same families who are need of a Thanksgiving donation.

In essence, the donated money stays within the community and supports a sustainable model: local businesses. A soup kitchen will always need donations and purchasing turkeys to give away benefits only a corporation that won’t support the neighborhood. In contrast, this alternative model feeds families for one day while providing a substantial cash-flow for businesses; which is particularly essential for start-ups. Moreover, the restaurants will receive promotion and visibility to a new client base. The challenge therein lies with the media and celebrities to choose to take on this new approach on subsequent Thanksgivings. If not, it’s going to be the same donating facade every year.

Photo credit: techvt

Filed under: soup kitchen, volunteering, donations, thanksgiving, turkeys, poor community, economy, poverty, charity

I don't know. Sometimes it feels like my writing & thoughts are way off. Who knows if it'll help anyone or if it means anything.

Written by Nassau Jones

  1. Deborah says:

    This is a great idea . I would like to do ths in my city . Any suggestion to hep me get started us helpful. We usually gather turkeys to give away , but so much greater Ali us ths building not only the businesses but the people self esteem to be able to go to a nice restaurant, sit down and enjoy instead if inky to the local soup kitchens , or getting their turkeys from a church and going home . The church can united with the businesses and other organizations, really getting so many involved working together. God bless you!
    Your thoughts are encouraging to me on this!

  2. Deborah says:

    Sorry for the typos didn’t check before I clicked . All of this is building. Other typo …..Instead of going

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