Several restaurants, community groups and churches are giving out free turkeys, hot Thanksgiving meals and other food for people in need this holiday. Photo: Claudio Schwarz | @purzlbaum
Several restaurants, food pantries, community groups and churches are giving out free turkeys, hot meals, and other food for people in need this holiday. Photo: Claudio Schwarz

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 BerkeleyWhat: 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 pantryWhat: 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 PantryWhat: 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 for updates

Thanksgiving food giveawayWhat: 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 MealWhat: 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 2020What: 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 GiveawayWhat: 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 DinnerWhat: 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 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 dinnerWhat: 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; donations will go to make more meals to feed more people

College Avenue Presbyterian Church Thanksgiving 2020What: 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 needed24th 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 DriveWhat: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 GiveawayWhat: 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, or visit

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