SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — For the third year in a row, Heidi Seefeldt and her husband Jeremy opened up their Sioux Falls pizza restaurant on Thursday to serve hundreds of meals to residents who couldn't afford a Thanksgiving dinner or didn't have anyone to spend the holiday with.
The Seefelts and a bevy of extended family members and volunteers expected to feed at least 500 people at Boss' Pizza and Chicken.
"It's really the best kind of Thanksgiving we've ever had. It's much better than sitting at someone's house and eating too much turkey and falling asleep to football. It's the best feeling," Heidi Seefeldt said.
The restaurant served broasted turkey, potatoes, stuffing, vegetables, rolls and, of course, chicken and pizza.
"It's definitely unique," Cameron Burleson, 19, said as he prepared for another helping of pizza. Burleson heard about the meal from his high school and went to the restaurant with his parents, Bonnie and Kyle Burleson.
The family is often forced to choose between food and other necessities like gas, Bonnie said.
Cameron Burleson noted that sugar has gone up to $4.
"You can find deals, but it's hard," Bonnie Burleson added.
Brandi Clarmont, 21, said Thursday was her first Thanksgiving meal at the pizza restaurant.
"I've never actually been to one of these things," said Clarmont, as she fed her 17-month-old son Aliez a piece of orange. "It was awesome. I love pizza."
South Dakota hasn't been hit as hard economically as some states, but for many families across the state a Thanksgiving meal wouldn't have been possible without food banks, shelters and the generosity of others.
"So many of us take for granted that when we open up our kitchen cabinet there will be food in there," said Mark Kirkeby, development director for the Salvation Army in Rapid City, which distributed 400 Thanksgiving meals. "It's unfortunate, but there are so many people who will not have that as a reality."
Matt Gassen, executive director of Feeding South Dakota, which operates food pantries in Sioux Falls and Rapid City, said food is often the first thing people cut from their budget when money is tight. The holidays can be especially rough in South Dakota because it coincides with colder weather and higher heating bills, Gassen said.
"We try our very best to try to make our holidays special for families. Holidays are tough on families and tough on budgets," he said.
Reach Kristi Eaton at twitter.com/kristieaton