‘This is a great thing!’ Northeastern’s annual Thanksgiving food drive ensures neighbors enjoy a holiday feast

People unloading boxes of food donations from a truck onto a dolly.
Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Thanksgiving is a holiday for feasting, and the Northeastern community is helping ensure its neighbors have the opportunity to do just that through the office of City and Community Engagement’s annual Thanksgiving food drive. 

This is the 47th year that Northeastern has collected food to donate to a local organization for Thanksgiving, placing roughly 40 boxes around the Boston campus where people can donate canned goods, nonperishables and other staples, as well as make monetary donations. 

This year, as in many years’ past, the recipient was the food pantry at Grant Manor housing complex in Roxbury, just a few blocks east of campus.

“This is a great thing!” Jesse Carter, vice president of the Grant Manor Homeowners Association, which runs the food pantry, said as staff and volunteers unloaded boxes. “Northeastern has been good to us for years.”

Pronessa Gaines, the director of the food pantry, said demand is higher this year than in the past.

“Since COVID and with prices going up, a lot more families come here, and some travel far,” Gaines said. “Y’all make it right for us every year.” 

John Tobin, Northeastern’s vice president of city and community engagement, praised the Northeastern community for being dedicated to the annual event. He noted that the food donations come not just from students, but also from many faculty and staff.

“The way every department steps up is really amazing but, given the culture of Northeastern, hardly surprising,” Tobin said. “Everybody deserves a shot at a traditional Thanksgiving meal.”

Doug Kowlessar, a student in the master’s of accounting/master’s of business administration program, dropped off boxes of stuffing on Monday morning. 

Like many Northeastern students, he is doing his part to give back to the community.

“We’re part of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Fellows group, and we’re trying to get everybody involved as possible,” Kowlessar said. “I do like to donate and be a part of charitable work.”

But while the Thanksgiving drive is perhaps the most visible food collection effort, it is not the only anti-hunger initiative of the university. 

“The amount of need and hunger out there is real, and it’s not just a Thanksgiving deal,” Tobin said. The CCE office goes out twice a month to deliver food with the nonprofit Fenway Cares.

“Folks depend on that,” Tobin said. 

Back at Grant Manor, meanwhile, Carter said he felt “blessed” when he saw all the boxes of food lined up. Together with donated turkeys and other fixings, Thanksgiving dinners would soon be ready for the oven.

“The food’s not for me, it’s for the people,” Carter said. “But I feel blessed.”

Cyrus Moulton is a Northeastern Global News reporter. Email him at c.moulton@northeastern.edu. Follow him on X/Twitter @MoultonCyrus.