Island chef Deon Thomas is once again gearing up for Thanksgiving in the kitchen he runs at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Oak Bluffs.

Mr. Thomas — who has cooked for two presidents and their families, among the innumerable parties he’s catered on the Vineyard — has made a tradition of preparing up to 300 free Thanksgiving meals for hungry Islanders to pick up at the “V.”

“I’ve done it for 13 years,” said Mr. Thomas, who expanded an existing VFW Thanksgiving program when he began cooking at the Towanticut avenue post.

“I sort of built on that when I took [the kitchen] over, [and] it has morphed into this behemoth,” he said.

This Thanksgiving, the Jamaican-born chef and longtime Island restaurateur is going bigger than ever, teaming up with the Island Food Pantry and the Vineyard’s community meals program to turn out at least 400 Thanksgiving dinners with all the trimmings on Thursday.

“Of course, turkeys are on the list,” Mr. Thomas said, laughing, as he ran down the rest of the menu.

“I’m doing the orchard [pear and apple] stuffing, the mashed potatoes, the roasted squash and yams,” he said.

Tradition of cooking free meals for the holiday has been going on for 13 years. — Jeanna Shepard

He’ll make giblet gravy as well, Mr. Thomas said, and sides such as collards and kale may also join the offerings, depending on what produce is freshest from Island Grown Gleaners.

Desserts are donated by a bevy of Island businesses including Vineyard Grocer, Morning Glory Farm and Sweet Bites, Mr. Thomas said.

“They just load us up with pies,” he said.

“All the cooking is done by your chef,” Mr. Thomas added. “Two o’clock Thursday morning, all the birds go in the oven and I get ready.”

He will, however, have a team of food pantry volunteers on Tuesday and Wednesday to peel and slice, and more volunteers to package the meals and clean up the kitchen after they go out, so he can spend the rest of the holiday with his family.

An army of volunteer drivers will deliver the multi-course feasts across the Island Thanksgiving afternoon.

“We’re offering it to all the social services first,” said food pantry director Sharon Brown, citing the food equity mantra coined by Island Grown Initiative executive director Rebecca Haag: “Make sure the right people get the right food at the right time.”

Deliveries will go out to the warming center at Grace Church in Vineyard Haven, which is open on Thanksgiving; to senior centers and seniors who have ordered by phone from the food pantry or from elder services; and to low-income families who receive food pantry deliveries every week, Ms. Brown said.

Diners who regularly receive suppers from the community meals program at Island churches will get Thanksgiving dinner as well: Marjorie Peirce, who coordinates the meals program, said she and Ms. Brown will meet early in the week to merge their delivery lists and create routes for the volunteer drivers.

Anyone who hasn’t signed up yet can still request a Thanksgiving meal, Ms. Brown said.

“They can call the pantry to leave their name, their address and how many meals they will need for their family,” she said.

Pick-up at the VFW will also be available Thursday afternoon, said Ms. Brown, who noted that the food pantry has more than a dozen regular customers who are homeless.

“We have homeless people who unfortunately live in the woods,” she said. “We see at least 10 to 15 every time we’re open.”

After she learned that some of these clients were warming their frozen meals over fires or automobile engines, Ms. Brown said, she asked for a microwave, which was donated.

Now somebody can request a hot meal when they arrive at the pantry and it will be ready for them at check-out, she said.

Ms. Brown, a co-founder of the Martha’s Vineyard Vegan Society who has been with the food pantry for the past year, said she learned about Mr. Thomas’s Thanksgiving project while catering with him on the side.

“A lot of times, people didn’t know or didn’t have transportation,” said Ms. Brown, who suggested mobilizing the food pantry’s volunteer work force to get the chef’s holiday meals to more of the people who need them.

At a meeting of the Island’s food equity network last month, Ms. Peirce — with years of experience in distributing community meals — signed on to organize the holiday program, which is planned to continue with a Christmas meal prepared by Amy Johnson, of Chef Amy’s in Vineyard Haven, at Camp Jabberwocky on Greenwood avenue.

Collaborative efforts like these have been on the rise on Martha’s Vineyard over the five years since Ms. Haag first called together the various public and private agencies serving vulnerable Islanders for a summit meeting that created the food equity network.

While churches and other groups, as well as volunteers like Mr. Thomas, had long worked individually to provide food relief to those in their circles, the food equity network has encouraged cross-agency partnerships and teamwork aimed at reaching more Islanders in need.

The food pantry — now located at the P.A. Club in Oak Bluffs — has merged into IGI and now offers more local food, including produce and frozen meals from Island Grown Gleaning program and extra lunches from IGI’s school lunch program, Ms. Brown said.

And by teaming with other agencies, the pantry now provides health and social services as well as groceries.

“I’m proud to say we don’t just do food any more,” Ms. Brown said, listing monthly visits from Martha’s Vineyard Community Services counselors, blood pressure checks with a visiting nurse, Covid-19 testing and bookbag giveaways for schoolchildren among the offerings.

While Island agencies like Community Services, IGI and councils on aging have been key players in expanding access to food and other services, it is volunteers who — often literally — deliver on the promise of feeding hungry Vineyarders.

“If it wasn’t for the volunteers, I don’t know what I would do,” said Ms. Brown, who relies on 10 to 20 volunteer workers a day, three to four days a week, to keep the pantry and deliveries running.

While a solid core of delivery drivers will be ready on Thanksgiving afternoon, volunteers will still be needed to help package the meals at the VFW.

“They don’t pack themselves,” said Ms. Peirce, a seasoned volunteer herself.

Volunteers can contact Ms. Brown at the food pantry, at 508-693-4764.