The historical outbreak of high path avian influenza has knocked out millions of turkeys ahead of Thanksgiving Day, and it’s putting a strain on organizations in New Jersey that focus on feeding the hungry.

The FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties is struggling with a shortfall of about 2,000 birds.

Carlos Rodriguez, executive director, said a spike in turkey prices affected how many they were able to purchase this year, and it seems to be limiting donations from outsiders as well.

The FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties is in need of frozen turkeys. (Dino Flammia, Townsquare Media NJ)

“The need in our community is for about 14,000 turkeys,” Rodriguez said Monday. “Where we see ourselves at the end of this, Nov. 16, is at about 12,000.”

That deadline may sound early, but the food bank needs enough time to distribute the frozen turkeys to the hundreds of feeding programs they assist.

The food bank is reaching out to the community for turkey donations over the next two weeks. Donations can be dropped off at the Neptune facility during business hours or at any WindMill location (minus Red Bank).

According to Tristan Wallack, food sourcing manager at the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, the bird flu has had a big impact on the cost. Luckily, they were able to act early and lock in prices at $1.15 per pound, compared to prices around $2.47 per pound today.

“We are concerned that these higher prices will affect what is donated during our turkey drive,” Wallack said.

The Community FoodBank of New Jersey has holiday turkey and food drives set up for multiple counties on Nov. 21 and 22.

Poultry expert Russell Whitman with Urner Barry, a commodity market reporting firm in Toms River, said wholesale turkey prices jumped by 31 percent over the past two years.

“We have higher prices than any time in recorded history, and we have available supplies at the lowest level,” Whitman said. “I could really appreciate how challenged (food banks) must be in being able to secure these donations this year.”

The deadly outbreak, the biggest ever in U.S. history, reportedly resulted in the loss of more than 8 million turkeys, affecting young and breeder flocks.

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