CINCINNATI — As the holiday season approaches, it’s all hands on deck again at Queen City Kitchen. On top of the six hot meals a week and biweekly pantry trips the nonprofit offers, volunteers and staff are also working to stockpile enough food ahead of Thanksgiving to provide boxes for every family the pantry serves. 

Yet, as food prices rise, pantries like QCK are feeling the pinch on both ends. The number of people seeking assistance is on the rise again, but ingredients to feed them are getting costlier. 

What You Need To Know

  • Queen City Kitchen offers six hot meals a month and allows clients to use its choice pantry twice a month

  • Every Thanksgiving, the pantry offers boxes with all the ingredients for a family meal

  • The pantry has seen need rise in recent months as food and clothing prices increase

  • Queen City Kitchen said its greatest needs are turkeys or chicken as well as warm clothing


Edwards stocks the free table

This year, the American Farm Bureau predicts a pricier Thanksgiving for most American families with prices for most holiday staples up about 5% over last year. 

Shauntia Edwards, Queen City Kitchen’s executive director, said it’s most noticeable when it comes to getting protein for the pantry’s clients.

“Right now, cases of chicken are about $75 at restaurant depot when we have to go purchase it when they used to be like, $35,” she said. 

That’s why Edwards said donations have become essential to help the pantry keep its head above water, as they see another surge in people in need of service.

“They make it all possible for us,” she said. “Nearly everything we use comes from Matthew 25 Ministries, La Soupe or the Freestore Foodbank.”

Queen City Kitchen serves hot meals six times a week

Most years, Edwards said QCK will pack about 60 Thanksgiving boxes for families to take home for the holiday including a turkey or chicken for them to cook up as well as ingredients for a variety of side dishes. 

This year, she said 200 families have signed up for the boxes so QCK needs more donations to keep the demand from impacting its usual operations.

“We will not use anything on our shelves because Thanksgiving is just one day and our clients will be back the following Tuesday, to want to shop again for the week.”

At the start of the pandemic, Edwards said QCK saw its first major spike in need. To provide, she said the kitchen expanded its hours and started allowing guests to shop at the choice pantry twice a month rather than the usual once. 

Edwards said she also started setting out a free table for clients to use anytime to address more immediate needs. 

Lynelle Hochstra gets a free meal and stops by the pantry twice a month

“So if they don’t want to wait, or they have to go to work or they have appointments they can just grab anything off this free table and we also have a cooler over there with meat,” she said. 

Clients like Lynelle Hochstra said it’s been a big help over the past year.

“I lost my job during the pandemic, and thanks to them being here, they were able to provide food for me and my grandchildren,” she said.

Hochstra said her daughter is back to work but QCK has still been essential in helping the family fill the gap between what they make and what they need, especially with the holidays coming up. 

“We’re definitely promised a turkey and we’re definitely promised a good family meal,” she said. 

Edwards said many of her clients have similar stories.

“Seventy-five percent of the clients that utilize us, they have income,” she said. “They rely on us so they don’t always have to spend out of pocket and can spend more on their families.”

With out-of-pocket costs rising for items like food and clothing, Edwards said QCK is working to add even more services to fill the gaps. She said the pantry started offering free clothing in March and is now looking for more cold weather wear to donate this season.

Edwards started a clothing pantry in March

“These are simple things that some people take for granted where we have old things at home where we might just pitch it where someone can utilize it,” she said.

Queen City Kitchen’s Thanksgiving boxes will be packed and distributed in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. Edwards said QCK’s greatest needs are nonperishable Thanksgiving staples as well as proteins like turkey or chicken they can include in the boxes. The pantry is also looking for warm clothing to add to its pantry.