SAN LUIS OBISPO— One individual can inspire others to do a lot of good. That is how Dan Sutton, general manager at Pismo Oceano Vegetable Exchange (POVE) for 20 years and board member at the Farm Bureau for 12 years, remembers his dear friend and fellow board member, Hugh Pitts.

“Hugh was a great leader and a passionate advocate for our community,” said Sutton in a phone interview with the SLO Food Bank. ”For many years around Thanksgiving, he would donate a pallet of turkeys to the SLO Food Bank, so that they could be distributed to people in need within SLO County.”

When Hugh passed away in 2018, the turkey donations fell away. But one night this year, current events and the surging acts of kindness within our community reminded Sutton of the tradition Pitts started, so he set out to revive it in honor of his friend.

“I wanted to make sure the support was there, but it really did not take long for people to get excited about this concept,” said Sutton, “and now I’m proud to say that every entity, including the Farm Bureau and its board members, Pismo Oceano Vegetable Exchange, Food 4 Less and the SLO Food Bank, has stepped up to make this happen.”

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Brent Burchett, Executive Director at the Farm Bureau, took over the logistics and communication for this project. He called several grocery stores until he connected with Food 4 Less, who gave him a deal on turkeys. The entire collaboration now encompasses one pallet of turkeys and one pallet each for cabbage, celery and Brussels sprouts, which are provided by POVE.

“We are incredibly grateful for this generous donation. It couldn’t have come at a better time. Right now, we are working hard to provide our 80 agency partners with turkeys to distribute throughout SLO County in time for Thanksgiving. We want to ensure that everyone in our community, even if they are struggling financially, can enjoy a holiday meal this year,” said SLO Food Bank’s Partner Services Manager Suzie Freeman.

Due to the pandemic, hunger in SLO County skyrocketed 154%, and now 2 in 5 SLO County residents are at risk of hunger. With the help of donors and volunteers, the SLO Food Bank and its nonprofit agency partners are working tirelessly to ensure a steady safety net for SLO County residents. Right now, the primary efforts are focused on providing nutritious and wholesome meals to everyone in need during the upcoming holiday season.

“We are all honored to contribute to the welfare of our community, just as Hugh would be,” said Sutton. “And in the process, we are also honoring our friends’ leadership and compassion. It has brought a smile to all our faces.”