Christmas music played Tuesday morning while a drive-thru food distribution event took place at the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds in Stockton.

In preparation for the holidays, the Emergency Food Bank Stockton/San Joaquin distributed turkey dinner box giveaways for Christmas that included items such as a turkey that can feed eight to 10 people, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, canned vegetables, and stuffing.

The food bank prepared 1,400 boxes to give out to families and shortly before 10 a.m. they had given away about 900 boxes of food to people, according to Alesha Pichler, the food bank’s community relations manager.

Volunteers Jessica Estrada (left) and Taylor Stallworth load food boxes into a car at San Joaquin County Fairgrounds on Tuesday. (Photo by Harika Maddala/Bay City News/Catchlight Local)

Attendees were able to receive separate boxes for each family in a vehicle as long as they showed identification with different addresses.

“Some cars have more than one family in it,” said Pichler. “You can have one resident from one house and another resident that’s their neighbor and said ‘Hey, let’s carpool together.’”

She said the need for food distributions has increased in the past years and the food bank is striving toward meeting the needs of the community.

“We give out food Monday through Friday … and two years ago we were capping out at about 250 cars during that time period,” said Pichler. “Last week we had 400 cars every day during that same time period.”

According to Jimmy Garza, warehouse manager for the food bank, over 500 of the turkeys from the boxes were donated by the Stockton Police Department.

He said most of the food that was included in the giveaway was either bought by the food bank or was given by the community as donations.

The makings of a Christmas dinner are nestled inside a food box waiting to be handed out during the drive-thru food distribution at San Joaquin County Fairgrounds in Stockton on Dec. 20, 2022. Most of the food items were provided through donations. (Photo by Harika Maddala/Bay City News/Catchlight Local)

State Sen. Susan Talamantes Eggman, D-Stockton, was present at the food distribution with several volunteers helping put food into the trunks of cars that came to the event.

“My staff and I have been doing this every year for the last few years,” said Talamantes Eggman. “We know people need food all year long but especially now … just connect with folks and see the reality of people’s lives and try to make it a little bit better.”

Any food items left over from the drive-thru will be given to other pantries or churches that have reached out to the food bank in need of food donations, according to Garza.

Victoria Franco is a reporter based in Stockton covering San Joaquin County for Bay City News Foundation and its nonprofit news site Local News Matters. She is a Report for America corps member.