Getting Thanksgiving dinner on the table has been more expensive for everyone this year, and particularly so for Vineyard charities, which are feeling the pincer grip of inflation and supply chain shortages as they struggle to feed a growing number of hungry Islanders.

While a recent survey by the American Farm Bureau Federation found the average cost of a family’s Thanksgiving meal went up 20 per cent over 2021, the Vineyard Committee on Hunger has seen a more than 100 per cent increase, from $25 to $60, for the baskets of holiday dinner ingredients it distributes before Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Not only are grocery prices shooting upward, but the Greater Boston Food Bank — the chief source of low-cost food for charities across southeastern Massachusetts, including the Island Food Pantry in Oak Bluffs — has been short-handed for more than two years, and continues to ship less food to the Vineyard than it did before the pandemic. “This is what we depend on for our regular supply of food [and] we barely have enough to get through the week,” said Merrick Carreiro, food equity director for Island Grown Initiative, which has operated the pantry since mid-2020.

The food bank is sending 5,000 pounds a month less than the pantry needs, she told the Gazette.

“Sometimes there’s not that much left by Monday,” Ms. Carreiro said.

Sharon Brown, program director at the Island Food Pantry. — Ray Ewing

At the same time, the demand for food is greater than ever, as inflation eats away at the already slender budgets of vulnerable Island households.

“We’re consistently registering about 50 new households a month for the food pantry,” Ms. Carreiro said.

Seniors on fixed incomes, seasonal employees and working families alike are feeling the pressure of rising costs for fuel and utilities as well as groceries, along with the unending shortage of

year-round housing, Ms. Carreiro and other Vineyard agency leaders told the Gazette this week.

Chef Deon Thomas of the VFW in Oak Bluffs, who last Thanksgiving cooked up 450 free turkey dinners with sides, planned on making 550 meals this year, Ms. Carreiro said.

Demand is also up at the West Tisbury Library, which has a mini-pantry equipped with a refrigerator for prepared soups from Island Grown.

“They get supplies at the beginning of the week, and by the end of the week there’s nothing except some canned goods,” said Marjorie Peirce, the longtime coordinator of community suppers at the First Congregational Church of West Tisbury, who has taken on the task of restocking the library fridge after IGI supplies run low.

“A couple of people wait for me on Thursday or Friday when I bring soup,” Ms. Peirce said.

Deb Edmunds loads boxes earlier this week at the pantry. — Ray Ewing

“One guy puts it in the sun so it can warm up,” she added, noting that she’s seen a growing number of people who lack kitchen facilities.

Ms. Peirce also sends meals to the winter homeless shelter, which last year outgrew its previous home at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Edgartown and is seeking to operate at Martha’s Vineyard Community Services for a second season.

“We have a serious housing problem, which is why most of these people are having trouble with food,” Ms. Peirce said. “They don’t even have a place they can heat it up... and winter’s coming.”

At the Anchors senior center in Edgartown, which serves lunch in-house twice a week and provides carry-out and delivery meals from its commercial kitchen, director Lyndsay Famariss is also seeing increased need.

“More and more Islanders are turning to food resources, perhaps because it’s the most accessible way to get relief in a time of inflation,” she said. “We’re hearing from people of all socioeconomic groups who are feeling the pinch.”

Isolated Islanders are among the most at risk of hunger, because they’re harder to reach. On Chappaquiddick, just across Edgartown Harbor, Ms. Famariss said an estimated 200 elderly, year-round residents may not be getting the food and other services they need.

“We do run into so many hurdles trying to get to them,” she said.

For years On Time skippers have carried unaccompanied lunches and the occasional walker or cane for pickup at Chappaquiddick Point, Ms. Famariss said. But delivering meals on a regular basis to Chappy homes means costly vehicle fares and, in summer, hours of staff or volunteer time spent waiting in line to board, she said.

Mike Barnes is on pallet duty. — Ray Ewing

While seeking a solution through the transportation task force recently formed by Healthy Aging MV, Ms. Famariss said the Anchors continues to connect Chappaquiddick seniors with Meals on Wheels and with the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital kitchen, which prepares Thanksgiving and Christmas meals for home delivery.

“I’m very determined... to increase and expand what we offer for Chappy residents,” Ms. Famariss said.

Some Island organizations are getting creative in their attempts to give back. To help stock up the Island Food Pantry ahead of the holidays, the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital this month organized a competition that challenged 12 teams of hospital employees to donate the most food, with the winning team treated to a pizza lunch.

“Food equity is definitely a hot topic and a priority for the hospital,” hospital employee Amy Houghton told the Gazette Tuesday, after dropping off a truckload of donations at the food pantry in Oak Bluffs.

“There was one nurse who brought in over 125 pounds of food,” she added.

Altogether, Ms. Houghton said, hospital employees donated more than 1,400 pounds of food over the two-week drive.

“The generosity has been pretty amazing,” she said.

Ms. Carriero said for individuals looking to donate groceries there are purple boxes located in Island markets, which will then be brought to the food pantry. Monetary contributions are welcomed, too, she added, while volunteers are downright essential.

“Our programs wouldn’t run without volunteers,” Ms. Carreiro said, citing the food pantry as well as Island Grown Gleaners, who harvest surplus produce on Vineyard farms.

“The value of volunteers can never be overstated,” she said.

The Anchors also counts on volunteers, but seeks referrals as well, Ms. Famariss said.

“What we’re always looking for is for people to [either] refer... people they’re concerned about to us, or to call us about what food resources are out there,” she said.

To donate to or volunteer with Island Grown Initiative, visit The Anchors is online at

The Vineyard Committee on Hunger website is The organization’s next holiday food distribution will be on Dec. 16 at the First Baptist Church in Vineyard Haven. The organization is also hosting a “shop to save” fundraising event on Dec. 4 where downtown Vineyard Haven businesses have pledged to donate 10 per cent of their proceeds.

More pictures.