Every Thanksgiving, President Obama indulges in the camera-ready tradition of pardoning one turkey, which then may live out its days without fear of slaughter. The stunt is so popular that some governors have also taken up the practice. But this year, Gov. Mark Dayton (D) of Minnesota turned the tradition on its head by sentencing a turkey to become a meal for the needy.
Minnesota, the largest turkey producer in the nation, is sending two other turkeys to Washington for the presidential pardon spectacle. The sentenced turkey, however, will go to the St. Paul Salvation Army to feed a swelling number of food insecure Minnesotans. The Minnesota Turkey Growers Association also pledged to donate enough turkeys to feed 12,500 people.
Dayton took the opportunity to lambaste Congress’s plan to gut food assistance funding in the overdue Farm Bill.
“They’re taking away from the neediest people in the nation,” the governor said. “These federal cuts are going to be beyond our capability, or any state’s capability to absorb and make up the difference. It’s a very, very difficult time for farmers…as well as food recipients. It’s a cruel way to treat them in the holiday season.”
Families relying on food stamps saw an automatic reduction in their already meager benefits at the beginning of the month. Now, going into the holiday season, the average food stamp recipient will have to make do with less than $1.40 per meal.
Most of these families will have to turn to food pantries and charities, which have struggled to pick up the slack since the recession. Usually, the holiday season brings a flood of donations, but donations are dropping steadily even as need grows. Many providers are looking at empty shelves as Thanksgiving draws near.