FRANKFORT – This week, as we gather with family and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving, it is worth noting that we’re just four years away from the 400th anniversary of the original famous feast enjoyed by the Pilgrims and the Native Americans who helped them weather especially tough times.
What has become the oldest American-based holiday didn’t settle into its current place on the calendar, however, until a native Kentuckian, President Abraham Lincoln, declared that it should be held on the last Thursday of November. Congress changed it slightly in the 1940s to make it the fourth Thursday of the month, where it has remained ever since.
While the turkey will undoubtedly be the centerpiece of most Thanksgiving meals this week, it might not have been if Benjamin Franklin had pushed for his suggestion to make that bird our national symbol rather than the eagle. He favored the idea in a letter to his daughter, writing that the turkey was “a bird of courage” and “a true original native of America.”
Whatever is on the dinner table, this meal is a good reminder of just how much our farmers do for all of us. The American Farm Bureau, for example, says the cost of the Thanksgiving meal – enough to feed 10 people – is around $50. When adjusted for inflation, that price is 20 percent lower than it was in the 1980s, when this annual survey began.
Kentucky farmers play a major role in keeping the country fed, of course, with about 10 different commodities – from poultry and cattle to corn and soybeans – bringing in $100 million or more a year.
Many of these farmers are also doing more than their fair share to make sure no one goes hungry. Since 2011, when the Farms to Food Banks program began, more than 11 million pounds of fresh produce have been donated to Kentuckians across the Commonwealth. More than 800 famers have taken part and benefited financially from this state-created program.
Our food banks deserve praise as well for the work they do year-round. Last year alone, they distributed enough to provide 58 million meals, feeding one in seven of our citizens.
Not all Thanksgiving meals happen at home. As they do each year, area restaurants and our state resort parks are offering cooks a chance to take it easy. Most of these parks will begin serving around 11 a.m. local time, and the cost for adults is $19.50, while children six to 12 will be charged $9.50. Children five and younger eat for free, and beverages are included in the prices.
These dining opportunities are a reminder that Thanksgiving is not a day off for everyone, so we should also be thankful for those who protect and care for us during this time; who staff our restaurants and retail establishments; and who volunteer to make sure no one goes hungry. They really deserve our gratitude.
Many of us will be traveling as well during this holiday weekend, so please take extra precautions when driving. In recent years, there have been hundreds of accidents and injuries during this period, and a half-dozen traffic fatalities on average. Let’s make this year a time when those numbers are as close to zero as possible.
In ending, my family and I would like to wish your family a wonderful Thanksgiving and hope you have an enjoyable holiday season.