Oakland's Thanksgiving meal giveaway reinvented to serve community needs amid pandemic

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- What better way to spend Thanksgiving than to give to those in need, especially this year when so many are having to go without, amid a pandemic.

"We're thankful that our community is doing this for us," said Oakland's Maria Espinoza, as she and her partner were driving through a food distribution site set up in the Laurel District. "And you know with these hard times, with COVID, it's nice to get a hot meal."

City leaders and dozens of volunteers gathered on MacArthur Boulevard to distribute hundreds of meals during an event that was heavily modified to accommodate this year's considerable COVID-19 concerns.

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The meals were ready made and pre-packaged, more than 1000 of them made by Oakland chef Jose Ortiz at his local restaurant, La Perla.

"I think we did about 75 to 80 turkeys," said Ortiz. "It's good to see all these people. People don't realize that in this city that people go hungry. Regardless if its Thanksgiving Day or not Thanksgiving Day."

"This morning, I along with my staff went and handed out 500 hot meals to our curbside and un-housed communities and seniors," said Oakland City Councilmember Sheng Thao. "We wanted to make sure that people that didn't have vehicles or didn't live nearby here were able to get some hot food as well."

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Besides the food, recipients were offered personal protective equipment in the form of masks, gloves and sanitizer, to help them get safely through a holiday that few will soon forget.

"This is an unprecedented year. So many families have been without jobs. They've had great food insecurity," explained Oakland City Councilmember-elect Treva Reid, "and this is the way that we can be stronger together, that we can close this year with a measure of strength, and that's what this day has been to even more families who have been in need."

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