Canha, Mets spread holiday cheer with turkey donations

November 21st, 2022

NEW YORK -- The line for New York Common Pantry snaked around the block last Friday, past the corner of 109th Street in East Harlem and down Fifth Avenue near the tip of Central Park. Near the entrance, a small crowd gathered as passersby stopped for a look.

“Is that the Mets?” a man asked, poking his head into the throng. “I love the Mets.”

It was one Met, in fact -- outfielder Mark Canha -- and a small army of team employees, who had been on site since the morning setting up a staging area to donate Thanksgiving turkeys. The scene was similar in every other borough, where Mets workers visited non-profit organizations in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Staten Island and their home borough of Queens, giving away 5,500 Thanksgiving turkeys and other trappings to residents in need.

“When I got the call about this event, I was thrilled to do it,” Canha said, wearing a hoodie underneath his yellow flannel overshirt to brace against the cold. “It means a lot. These people here are really appreciative to get this food. I’m a big food person. I appreciate a good meal as much as the next person, so it means a lot.”

As one resident approached the front of the line, he wrapped Canha in a bear hug, which the outfielder found particularly moving. A Bay Area native, Canha spent his entire career in Oakland until this past season, when he signed with the Mets on a two-year, $26.5 million contract. Immediately, Canha and his wife took to their new home, in no small part because of their love of food. An amateur food blogger, Canha enjoys seeking out new restaurants and trying new dishes. (When "Good Morning America" called to see if Canha might want to judge a pie baking competition earlier in the day, he accepted the invitation with particular gusto.)

So the intersection between food and charity is one that has particular appeal for Canha. Organizations such as the Common Pantry, which works towards the reduction of hunger and food insecurity in the New York area, are a natural fit for him.

“It’s about stuff like this,” Canha said when asked about the idea of Thanksgiving. “It’s about getting together with family and sharing food. We have a big gathering at my house in California. It’s one of those holidays that I’ve always found to be really special. I really appreciate just seeing my family and seeing the people that I don’t get to see as much as I’d like to. We’ve got my Mets family here, so it’s nice to see the Mets family before I go back home to my family.”

Canha’s efforts were part of not only a larger Thanksgiving mission spanning five boroughs, but a reimagining of the team’s charitable arm under owner Steve Cohen and his wife, Alex, the president of the Amazin’ Mets Foundation. As a Harlem native who grew up in Washington Heights, Alex Cohen understands the needs of New York City as well as anyone.

Not only that, she is empowered to do something about them.

“It’s been a great energy around the organization this whole year,” Canha said. “The Mets are doing so many great things with Metsgiving and the Amazin’ Mets Foundation. It’s really good to see, and I’m proud to be part of this organization.”