Community Journal: It takes an Island

Community Journal: It takes an Island

Troy Gilbert

Photos courtesy of the Alameda Food Bank.

I’ve always loved the holidays. In addition to giving thanks for my family’s good fortune, it presents a time where our community can come together to help more families in Alameda have a good holiday season.

Many of our local families need help. The Alameda Food Bank served 1,582 households in 2007 and 2,125 households in 2013, an increase of 34 percent. One of every 15 people living in Alameda will need food assistance this year. Of those, 30 percent are children and 10 percent are seniors.

And come together we did. The Boy Scouts' annual “Scouting for Food” drive was held in the Island city on November 15. Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts walked the entire Island picking up donated canned food from nearly 30,000 homes in Alameda. The food was brought to three different sorting locations, which were staffed by volunteers representing many different organizations: Alameda Kiwanis, Rotary, Girls Inc. of the Island City, local faith communities, and many local members of the United States Coast Guard. Coast Guard volunteers helped get the food to the warehouse. In a little over five hours, this massive group of hard-working, golden hearted volunteers brought 16,156 pounds of food to the food bank warehouse at Alameda Point. We were able to begin distributing those contributions to our families literally the next week.

The highlight of the season was again our annual turkey drive, which we held on November 25. Like previous years, this year the food bank set a goal of collecting 1,000 turkeys to give away. This year I held my breath when we had a total of 150 turkeys a week before the event. But with the help of several key community organizations, including the Alameda Fire Department, Bank of Marin and the Italian-American League, we were up to 450 by the end of the week.

Through broad appeals from the local press including The Alamedan, the Alameda Sun and the Alameda Journal, we raised our numbers. Local Facebook pages then kicked into gear, especially Alameda Peeps and Where Hipsters Come to Breed. The Peeps issued almost daily challenges to their 3,000 members. And the turkeys came in.

By the time our turkey drive came to a close, we had over 1,000 turkeys to distribute. This will enable us to give turkeys to all our clients through the December holidays. The turkey giveaway itself was an amazing event with the Alameda Fire Department, Wind River, Clif Bar, Public Library of Science (PLOS), and many of our own regular food bank volunteers contributing. I also cannot thank enough the many, many local schools (especially Edison!) who sponsored turkey or canned food drives for us.

I have begun to see the Alameda Food Bank not so much as a lone entity that gives food, but a broad-based organization that facilitates our community’s efforts to ensure more Alamedans have enough (or at least don’t “go without”). This is especially true over the holidays. It's something to truly be grateful for.