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US Food Banks Struggling with Holiday Turkey Shortage

Comstock/Thinkstock(FORT SMITH, Ark.) -- Last year, the River Valley Regional Food Bank donated 2,000 to 4,000 turkeys to families in need.

This Thanksgiving, the Fort Smith, Ark., site has a little more than 200 turkeys.

“Normally, we have very generous food manufacturers that donate to us,” said Ken Kupchick, the Feeding America food bank’s marketing and development director. “You name it. We are supported by major food producers. Donations are there....It’s just not here this Thanksgiving.”

Shannon Traeger, a media relations associate for Feeding America’s national office, said the turkey shortage was being felt by the group’s 200 food banks across the U.S.

The 200 or so turkeys the Fort Smith food bank will give away came from Walmart. Kupchick said half would go to disabled veterans and their families and the rest would be handed out to families of four and more during a church event this weekend.

The food bank has 170 pantries assisting 12,000 families in need, including 25,000 children classified as “food insecure” and close to the same number of residents 50 and older.

Kupchick said the food bank had searched high and low for holiday birds.

He said a Pennsylvania seller had offered turkeys with missing parts for 93 cents a pound, but the cost of the birds plus transportation would have reached $45,000. The food bank asked other food banks to split the deal, but got no takers.

Kupchick told ABC News that the situation was more stressful because Whirlpool, a major local employer, had announced an early-2012 closing of its manufacturing plant, putting residents on edge.

“To see the faces of the unemployed is very disturbing,” he said. “We’re in for a long haul.”

Traeger reminded Americans that the need for food assistance wasn’t only a holiday problem.

“Feeding America network food banks continue to report significant increases in the number of people seeking assistance,” she said via email. “Nearly 49 million men, women and children worry about the source of their next meal.”

If you would like to donate money to help those in need of food, there are several ways:

Donate to the Fort Smith food bank here and to Feeding America here.

You can also make a food donation to your local food pantry.

Donations can also be sent to: P.O. Box 4069, Fort Smith, AR 72914

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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