Feeding the Gulf Coast: places to eat for the holidays

Areas around the panhandle are serving free meals for families around the holiday season.
Areas around the panhandle are serving free meals for families around the holiday season.(MGN)
Published: Nov. 22, 2022 at 4:11 PM CST
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BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - The holiday season is all about feasts. However, a shocking number of people, right here in our local community, struggle to figure out where their next meal will come from.

A family feast can cost money, and this thanksgiving, one local community wants everyone to enjoy a hot meal without the high cost.

“Part of the reason is because of everybody is struggling right now with anything and everything, inflation and prices of everything so that is got a lot involved,” said Richard Hathorn.

The Green Hills community center is hosting a free community meal, with plans to serve hundreds on Thanksgiving Day.

“Free thanksgiving dinner for the community here in fountain and anyone is welcome it’s a free dinner were having all the trimmings,” said Hathorn.

Reports from the group “Feeding America” shows bay county has a 15% food insecurity rate. That means there are around 27 thousand 300 people who do not know where their next meal will come from. that is almost 38 percent higher than national average.

That’s where community support and caring neighbors. can make a difference.

“Me and my roommate talked about it, and I was like we need to have a dinner,” said Hathorn.

This is the sixth year the group has hosted the hot meal, typically it happens the weekend before thanksgiving. but this year it’s different.

“This is the first year we have decided to do it on Thanksgiving Day because of other people asking us well there’s other people that don’t have family to be able to do stuff with,” said Hathorn.

Friends are like family in this close-knit community, where they will be willing to serve anyone, in the true spirit of Thanksgiving.

“If you’re hungry show up were not going to turn anyone away by no means,” said Hathorn.

After your free meal, you can also buy a to-go plate for five dollars. That 5 dollars will go to the community center so they can keep providing other meals to those in need.

Many are looking forward to Thanksgiving, along with all the precious memories to share this season.

However, with the rising cost of food and other essentials, some families won’t be able to experience that simple tradition of a holiday meal.

That’s why many restaurants and businesses around the panhandle are looking to help out.

Below are local places in the area you’ll be able to find fresh food for those in need:

AJ’s on the Bayou in Fort Walton Beach: 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.

AJ’s Grayton Beach: 12 p.m. - 5 p.m.

Harbor Docks in Destin: 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Panama City Rescue Mission: 4:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.

Green Hills Community Center in Fountain: starting at 2 p.m.

St Andrews Episcopal Church in Panama City: 6 p.m. - 7 p.m.

The Ark in Panama City Beach: 2 p.m.