Thanksgiving Traditions Carry On in an Unprecedented Year

Thanksgiving in 2020, like many other occasions this year, is unlike any we have experienced – or will likely experience again. The roaring crowds at the traditional Thanksgiving football games will dine and look on hopefully from home. Diners who frequent restaurants will opt for take-home versions of their favorite holiday dishes. And extended families who break bread together will share smiles and laughs through video conferences.

What’s clear, however, is that even in the unprecedented year that is 2020, families and communities will still connect over a warm, homemade Thanksgiving meal.

Making that meal memorable is a tradition we’re proud to keep up even facing the challenges of a pandemic. For more than 30 years, Levy has partnered with community organizations around Chicago – as well as our communities around the country – to bring restaurant quality meals made with love and care to those in need.

Each year since 2017, Levy team members and their families have prepared a traditional feast for thousands at the Salvation Army’s Freedom Center. Thanksgiving week typically begins with kitchen prep at Guaranteed Rate Field and culminates with a meal service for more than 2,000 at the Freedom Center, and a mobile meal drop-off at locations around Chicago. The day has become a tradition for many in the Levy family.

“We’ve always said Thanksgiving is a time when everyone deserves the joy of a warm, restaurant quality meal, and I’m incredibly proud that we’re able to keep the tradition alive, even in the toughest of times,” said Andy Lansing, President and CEO of Levy. “This year we’ll do all we can to create Thanksgiving memories in a safe and responsible way, even while we can’t be there in person. When we’re able to be together again, you can bet I’ll be at the front of the line, greeting our community with a warm plate and a smile.”

Levy team members and their families came together to serve thousands at Salvation Army’s Freedom Center in 2019.

This year, the tradition will continue, with 2,000 meals available for pick-up at the Freedom Center through appointment, and for drop-off at several locations around the city. The turkey, potatoes, yams, green beans, dressing, and cranberry sauce will still flow, with food donations sent to the Salvation Army’s kitchen and remote recipe instruction from Levy Vice President and Chef de Cuisine Robin Rosenberg.

Even the turkey preparation has a new wrinkle this year. More than 700 pounds were donated from the United Center kitchens. So while fans may not yet be able to enjoy a hand-carved turkey sandwich on the United Center concourse, those in need will still enjoy an expertly-prepared, restaurant quality meal.

More than 700 pounds of turkey – which would have been earmarked for carvery stations on game days – were donated from the United Center kitchens.

“Levy goes far beyond sharing a meal with those in need,” said Major Nancy Powers, program development officer for The Salvation Army Freedom Center. “Their team members truly care about people and they put their hearts into every bite and you can taste it! They use fresh ingredients and make their dishes from scratch bringing out their delicious flavors. This year, they have provided all the groceries, their recipes, and equipment to make this Thanksgiving a beautiful holiday for others. We are especially grateful to Levy this year, that in a time when their business has been so heavily affected by the pandemic, their heart beats strong.”

“Salvation Army provides hope for so many during the holidays, and in this crazy year, people need a great Thanksgiving meal more than ever,” said Chef Robin. “Thanksgiving makes us all at Levy feel lucky for our family and the wonderful people around us who make the holiday so special for so many. Giving back to those less fortunate is the highlight of my year. We couldn’t have done it this year without such amazing donations from our locations and vendors, and the incredible Chef Aida Montenez and her team at Salvation Army.”

Chef Aida Montenez and her team at Salvation Army are already prepping to serve more than 2,000 meals this year.

Salvation Army Thanksgiving Meals – By the Numbers

  • 2,000 meals prepared for pick-up and delivery at Chicago neighborhood drop-off points
  • 700 pounds of turkey
  • 300 pounds of Russet potatoes for mashed potatoes
  • 250 pounds of sweet potatoes
  • 250 pounds of green beans
  • 130 pounds of bread for dressing
  • 125 pounds of cranberries for cranberry sauce