The sign outside Guerber Hall at the Benton County Fairgrounds still says “Basket Pickup” right below the Linn Benton Food Share logo.

But starting this year, people who went to the food share for the essentials of their Thanksgiving meal didn’t actually get a food basket or box preloaded with food as they would have in years past.

Instead, they got to bag up what they needed from tables loaded with turkeys, potatoes, onions, apples, eggs, margarine and boxes of stuffing mix.

Volunteers worked to distribute Thanksgiving meal essentials for more than 1,000 Benton County households Monday at the fairgrounds, 110 SW 53rd St., Corvallis.

Food Share staffer Susan James said the change in format for distributing the Thanksgiving meals was made to be more efficient about how the organization distributes food.

She said the food share’s resources are down recently, both because the state food bank is giving the organization less food and because local retailers are donating less after changing how they order goods, in response to competition from online retailers.

According to James, the Food Share did a survey in 2017 indicating that many people didn’t want all of the things included in the Thanksgiving food basket. So rather than waste food, she said, the group is letting people pick what they want. Farmer added that if families don’t receive everything they need from the Thanksgiving meal resources distributed at the fairgrounds, they can go to their local food bank for other essentials.

In all, James said, the Food Share expects to provide meals for about 1,300 Benton County families this Thanksgiving. Some meals were delivered Sunday to housebound families, and most meals were distributed Monday to people with appointments in advance. However, James said, the organization will continue distributing Thanksgiving food from 10 a.m. to noon today on a drop-in basis at the fairgrounds.

Food Share Director Ryan McCambridge said the organization distributes holiday meal items through its regular network of pantries in Linn County, but it doesn’t have such a large event for distributing holiday meal components as it does in Benton County. The difference is basically due to local tradition.

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He said the Food Share is expecting to distribute more than 22,000 pounds of food through its Benton County Thanksgiving program.

Anyone seeking information about how to get food for the holiday or in an emergency, can contact the Food Share at 541-758-2609 or online at communityservices.us.

Samantha Canete and Dominador Castro, a couple who both attend Oregon State University, were among the people picking up Thanksgiving essentials at the fairgrounds Monday.

Castro said they aren't not from Corvallis, and they plan to host a dinner for some fellow students since they can’t afford to go home for Thanksgiving.

“As college students we really don’t get a lot of nutritious meals,” he said. “A lot of us are surviving on Cup O'Noodles.”

Resources like this are a huge help for students, he said.

“I’m definitely thankful for this,” he added.

Canete said her family typically has a lot of food for Thanksgiving at home, but the holiday meal isn't easy to afford as a college student.

“It’s pretty cool they offer this to the community, especially to people who can’t afford an extravagant meal,” she said.

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Anthony Rimel covers education and crime in Benton County and weekend events across the Mid-Valley. He can be reached at anthony.rimel@lee.net or 541-812-6091.