UTICA, N.Y. -- Hundreds of people in need lined Bleecker Street in downtown Utica to receive a free Thanksgiving day meal to make with their families.
For the past five years the Utica Food Bank has collected turkeys, stuffing, canned goods and side dishes to give to families in need. The food bank partners with several local groceries stores and take donations from the community to put the meals together.
This year roughly 700 meals were donated, an increase of about 200 from last year. In Utica 1 in 3 people are living in poverty, according to DataUSA.
Russell Brooks, president of the Utica Food Bank, said people started lining up three hours ahead of time to make sure they were able to get a Thanksgiving meal.
"We try to give them the turkey, and the fixings," he said. "The people are very, very appreciative and to me it's heartwarming."
Brooks said the food bank has also seen an increase in the amount of people wanting to volunteer. This year more than 20 people helped organize food items, put the bags together and hand the bags out to people in need.
"The Utica food pantry is a middleman... half the people in the city are able to donate turkeys and volunteer and help the half that are struggling, the veterans, the psych patients, the refugees, just the needy in general, it's what Thanksgiving is all about," he said.