The city of Oakland's Thanksgiving feast for low-income and unhoused residents will go mobile this year in light of the increased risk of large gatherings during the novel coronavirus pandemic. (Photo via Claudio Schwarz/Unsplash)

Oakland’s annual community Thanksgiving dinner is going to look a lot different this year because of the pandemic, city officials announced Friday.

Thousands of low-income families and unhoused people have been served a traditional holiday feast each year for the past 28 years at one location, but this year meals will be provided in a different way and under a new name.

Meals will be cooked at the Oakland Marriott, where the feast was held last year, and delivered to food pantry sites in the city. The event is now called the Community Day of Thanks and organizers are providing 1,000 more meals than last year’s 2,000 for a couple of reasons.

“The fact that it’s in the community, it enables more people to access it,” so there might be more demand, said Talia Yaffa Rubin, a licensed clinical social worker with Oakland’s Human Services Department.

“And I think there is just a greater need in general,” Rubin said.

The Day of Thanks will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 24, two days before the official Thanksgiving holiday. The downtown Marriott will be a staging area this year rather than the sit-down dinner site.

Traditional Thanksgiving fixings are on the menu. Event organizers are planning to have meals available at the food pantry sites between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., but the time could be a little different at each site.

“We’re trying to replicate that we’re all sitting down together,” Rubin said.

People who are homebound will have a meal delivered to them. Some food pantries may require people to sign up for a meal or meals while other sites may be first come, first served.

The Day of Thanks is part of the city’s Hunger Program, which began in 1985 under the administration of Mayor Lionel J. Wilson.

City officials are seeking donations to help with the cost of meals. A donation of $26 will pay for a meal for one person and $104 will offset the cost of meals for a family of four.

“We depend on donations to execute the event,” Rubin said.

Donors can take a tax deduction for the gift. Checks can be made payable to City of Oakland Hunger Program and mailed to City of Oakland Hunger Program, Attention: Talia Rubin, 150 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Suite 4340, Oakland, CA 94612.

Organizers are also seeking donations of gifts to go along with each meal or set of meals. Meals will be placed in a city of Oakland tote bag along with a mask.

Organizers are asking for donations of things like hats, gloves, gift cards, hygiene kits or T-shirts. Donations can be coordinated with Rubin at (510) 238-6590.

Donations of food are not needed. And organizers are not requesting volunteers this year.

Keith Burbank is currently a fulltime reporter covering Alameda County and Oakland news for Bay City News. He has also worked on the Data Points project for Local News Matters, finding trends and stories about the region through data. In 2019, he was a California Fellow at the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism, producing a series about homeless deaths in Santa Clara County. He worked as a swing shift editor for the newswire for several years as well. Outside of journalism, Keith enjoys computer programming, math, economics and music.