At the Fruitridge Community Collaborative in South Sacramento this past weekend, volunteers distributed food bags full of hams, turkeys and other Thanksgiving staples.

But instead of having people stand in

line, they gave out packages via car windows as people drove through.

Alberto Mercado of Sacramento Building Healthy Communities, one of a handful of nonprofit groups that put on the event, said the logistics of the giveaway were a challenge, but canceling wasn’t an option.

“This is where we need to come out and help our neighbors,” Mercado said. “Help them out and provide them with something, a safety net or a meal just for one day, so they feel like there’s hope”

He says they gave away all of their food and had to send several families to other drives.

Other local turkey giveaways have also shifted to a drive-through format, and nonprofits are reporting a continuous, higher-than-usual demand for food as the pandemic wears on.

“The need in the last month or so has gotten greater,” said Julie Rhoten, executive director of the Stanford Settlement Neighborhood Center just north of downtown Sacramento.

She said families in her neighborhood were food insecure even before the pandemic, but unemployment and challenges accessing school meals has made the situation worse.

The organization ran out of food at a turkey giveaway it held last week, and Rhoten says their Christmas basket program is also maxed out.

“This year we’ve signed up 720 households and still people are asking,” she said. “And that’s very concerning because it’s not even Thanksgiving yet.”

Statewide, there’s been a 73% increase in the number of people being served at food banks during the pandemic, according to Andrew Cheyne, director of government affairs for the California Association of Food Banks on CapRadio’s Insight.

“To think it took us a decade to get back to pre recession levels [of food insecurity] ... now food banks are affected like never before,” he said. “They’re truly on the front line of this crisis”

Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services reports it’s serving 250,000 people a month these days, as opposed to 150,000 before the pandemic.

And its annual Run to Feed the Hungry marathon, which typically draws 29,000 runners and raises $1 million, has had to shift to a mostly-virtual format this year.

CEO Blake Young says if the event is less successful than in years past, that could impact the food bank’s long-term financial stability.

“It’s an incredible revenue generator for the organization,” Young said on Insight. “For us to just say okay we’re not going to do it … we can’t do that.”

Donations to the Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services can be made here.

Most of Sacramento’s Thanksgiving meal giveaways are over, but food banks and nonprofits distributing meals say they still need monetary donations to be able to keep families fed throughout the rest of the year.

Editor's note: CapRadio is a sponsor of the Run to Feed the Hungry.

NorCal News

State News

Northern California
Public Media Newsletter

Get the latest updates on programs and events.