Most years, shelters and other organizations offer free sit-down Thanksgiving dinners for members of their community needing support. This year, in the midst of a pandemic that has imposed a variety of restrictions, gathering indoors is discouraged and so these charitable meals need to be reimagined. That’s not the only challenge. There’s more demand for food than ever as people struggle with unemployment and isolation.
Many shelters and churches that typically offer meals are still doing so, though mostly in to-go formats. Restaurants and food producers are hurting from greatly reduced traffic and revenue as a result of COVID-19 restrictions. Some are nevertheless digging deep to share and support the food insecure in their communities and to bring people together and give them reason to be grateful and celebrate.
The list below describes some of the events planned around the East Bay. Listings below are current as of publication, but many events require preregistration and could be affected by changing COVID-19 regulations or other factors. Be sure to check websites and social media for the most up-to-date information, as well as mask and other health protocols required.
If you can help by donating or volunteering, your contribution would be gratefully received, as would a takeout order at any of the participating restaurants. And if you know of other Thanksgiving free meal opportunities, please leave a comment below.
Thanksgiving Day of Service with The Way Berkeley
What: Sleeping bags and a hot meal distributed, litter cleanup
When: Noon, Nov. 21
Where: Encampment near Seabreeze Cafe, 598 University Ave., Berkeley
Volunteer/donate: Volunteer to hand out sleeping bags, a hot meal, and help clean up litter at the Seabreeze encampment in Berkeley. When you register to volunteer, you will receive a link to the volunteer orientation on Nov. 20 at 7 p.m.
Berkeley Food Network on-site pantry
What: Holiday foods distributed throughout November and December
When: 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Monday through Thursday; 5-7 p.m., Monday and Wednesday; 10 a.m. to noon, first and third Saturdays. Closed Nov. 25 through Nov. 27 for the Thanksgiving holiday, reopening Nov. 30.
Where: Berkeley Food Network, 1925 Ninth St., Berkeley. Enter through the door facing the parking lot. Bring your own shopping bags
Berkeley Food Pantry
What: Emergency grocery supplies distributed to Berkeley and Albany residents as needed. Families with children receive a supplemental bag of food. Distributions include holiday foods
When: 2-4 p.m., Monday, Wednesday and Friday by appointment. Photo ID and proof of Berkeley or Albany residence required
Where: Berkeley Food Pantry, 1600 Sacramento St., Berkeley
Volunteer/donate: Donations accepted. Food may also be donated through the Berkeley Neighborhood Food Project; more information at 510-635-3663, or check www.berkeleyfoodpantry.org for updates
Thanksgiving food giveaway
What: Thanks to partnerships with Home Made Chips, Dairy Delivery, Bay Cities Produce, Advanced Tech and Rhetoric Coffee, Alex Market will be giving away food
When: 2 p.m. until supplies last, Nov. 24
Where: Alex Market, 2440 Sacramento St., Berkeley
This is Love Fall Feast Meal
What: Hot traditional meals, toiletries and clothing will be handed out
When: 2:30 p.m., Nov. 26
Where: Basketball courts at People’s Park, 2556 Haste St., Berkeley
East Oakland Boxing Association holiday meal (in partnership with the East Bay Circle of Men)
What: Annual event providing 1,000 families with take-home meals to cook. Each meal includes a 12-14 lb turkey, stuffing, veggies, cranberry sauce, muffin mix to feed a family of 4-6. Preregistration required
When: 11 a.m.-3 p.m., Nov. 21
Where: East Oakland Boxing Association, 816 98th Ave., Oakland (Pearmain Street entrance)
Volunteer/donate: Volunteers and donations accepted
Afrikan Black Coalition (ABC) Friends Giving 2020
What: Volunteer to provide service and share a community meal. ABC House will provide turkey and sides
When: Nov. 22, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.: Prep food plates and hygiene kits at ABC House for distribution; 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.: Groups of at least two will go to designated drop sites near the ABC house; 1-4 p.m.: Friends Giving Meal at ABC House
Where: Afrikan Black Coalition House, 945 88th Ave., Oakland; event will be outside to allow for maximum social distancing so dress for weather. Yard is accessible but bathroom must be accessed using two steps
Volunteer/donate: All attendees are expected to volunteer during the service event or contribute a dish or drink item for at least four people to the meal. Sign up on Eventbrite to participate or donate
Shiloh Church Oakland Thanksgiving Giveaway
What: Donating over 1,500 food bags at a walk-through community event. Register online to reserve your Thanksgiving food bag.
When: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Nov. 23
Where: Shiloh Church, 3295 School St., Oakland
Volunteer/donate: Visit the Shiloh Church website or call (510) 261-2052 for details and volunteer opportunities.
Horn Barbecue Community Dinner
What: Owner Matt Horn will serve a Thanksgiving meal to the community
When: 1-3 p.m., Nov. 23
Where: Horn Barbecue, 2534 Mandela Parkway, Oakland
Volunteer/donate: Email firstname.lastname@example.org to volunteer
Lao Tae free turkey giveaway
What: The Oakland Lao restaurant will give away 250 turkeys on a first-come, first-serve basis
When: 1-4 p.m., Nov. 23
Where: Lao Tae, 6516 Moraga Ave., Oakland
Lake Merritt United Methodist Church Thanksgiving dinner
What: Lake Merritt United Methodist Church’s annual Thanksgiving community dinner will be takeout only this year
When: 11:45 a.m., Nov. 24
Where: Lake Merritt United Methodist Church, 1330 Lakeshore Ave., Oakland
Volunteer/donate: Donations accepted and volunteers needed to prepare, bag, plate and distribute food
1st Annual Pho for the People
What: Monster Pho will be giving away beef pho or chicken pho as a thank you to the community and an effort to help families in need
When: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Nov. 25
Where: Monster Pho, 3905 Broadway, Oakland
Thanksgiving dinner giveaway
What: Magnolia Street Wine Lounge & Kitchen, Chris Evans Events, The Sauce, Pound Bizness, Tamm is Cooking, and the Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce have teamed up to offer 250 traditional Thanksgiving to-go meals on a first-come, first-served basis
When: 11 a.m. until they run out, Nov. 25
Where: SPARC-It Place lot, 3427 San Pablo Ave., Oakland
Volunteer/donate: To volunteer, email email@example.com; donations will go to make more meals to feed more people
College Avenue Presbyterian Church Thanksgiving 2020
What: Providing 150 to-go meals on a first-come, first-served basis
When: 11 a.m. to noon, Nov. 26
Where: College Avenue Presbyterian Church, 5951 College Ave., Oakland
Volunteer/donate: Donations of money and food are accepted. Volunteers needed to help with cooking, preparing the site, serving and cleaning up
1st Annual Community Meal and Mask Giveaway
What: Oakland city council members Sheng Thao, Rebecca Kaplan and Noel Gallo; East Oakland Collective; Oakland Firefighters, Oakland Mutual Aid; Laurel District Association and others join forces to give away free meals and masks to the community
When: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Nov. 26
Where: Planet Fitness parking lot, 4055 McArthur Blvd., Oakland
Volunteer/donate: Volunteers needed
24th Annual Turkey Drive
What: Community Giving Foundation is giving out turkeys and offering free rapid response COVID-19 tests, HIV and Hep-C screenings and flu shots.
When: 8 a.m. to noon, Nov. 21
Where: Verdese Carter Recreation Center, 9600 Sunnyside St., Oakland
Volunteer/donate: Donations accepted
5th Annual TBN Turkey Drive
What: The Black Neighborhood (TBN) in partnership with the Richmond Police Activities League (PAL), Prospect Sierra School, and Richmond Revolution will give away 500 free food bags to local families filled with turkey, canned goods and other items.
When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Nov. 22
Where: Richmond PAL, 2200 Macdonald Ave., Richmond. Sign up through TBN’s website or in-person at Richmond PAL. Pick up the bags during designated time slots
Volunteer/donate: Volunteers are needed to help fill the bags on Nov. 21 at Richmond PAL from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and giveaway day between 1-5 p.m. to distribute the food bags to families. Financial donations to support the Turkey Drive are welcomed
Bay Area Rescue Mission Thanksgiving Giveaway
What: Pre-registered community members (Register online or in-person through Nov. 20) will receive a turkey and other Thanksgiving food items to prepare. Registration requires identification or drivers license, proof of address (utility bill or similar, dated September to November 2020).
When: 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Nov. 24
Where: Bay Area Rescue Mission, 123 Macdonald Ave., Richmond
Volunteer/donate: Call 510-215-4798, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.BayAreaRescue.org