EAST MEADOW, N.Y. (PIX11) — Police officers, government officials, local churches and first responders gathered at Stew Leonard’s in East Meadow for an important cause, providing Long Island families in need a chance to have a happy Thanksgiving this year.

Now 43 years strong, the annual turkey drive has been passed down from generation to generation with help from others within the community.

Close to 500 turkeys were handed out on Thursday. Not only will the holiday birds provide nourishment to needy families, but they will also ease their financial burden.

Long Island Cares reports that more than 272,000 Long Islanders are hungry or experience food insecurity. Of that number, more than 89,000 of them are children. According to the USDA, the average cost of a turkey has increased to nearly $2 per pound in 2022, up from $1.15 in 2021 due to inflation. For many, the turkey drive is critical.

Stew Leonard’s plans to give away 3,000 turkeys between its seven stores.