OAKLAND, Calif. (KRON) — East Oakland has been hit especially hard by the pandemic, making it difficult for families to put food on the table this holiday.

That’s what inspired city leaders and local businesses to step up today and provide Thanksgiving dinners to hundreds in need.

Emersed in trying times, East Oaklanders say every kind gesture counts.

A free meal on Thanksgiving — making all the difference.

“With COVID, we’re low in money and funds and even diapers sometimes — so this is great,” Sara Gonzalez said.

The parking lot outside planet fitness on MacArthur Boulevard hosting Councilmember Sheng Thao’s first Thanksgiving meal giveaway.

“There’s a lot of volunteers here. We’re able to get out over 1,000 meals to our Oakland families,” Thao said. “People who have food insecurity, you know, financial insecurity. A lot of families are hurting right now.”

Thao teamed with Oakland mutual aid collective to also provide free face coverings, gloves and hand sanitizer.

Chef Jose Ortiz co-owns La Perla Puerto Rican cuisine in the Fruitvale District, which produced the meals.

“Anytime that you do something for the community and for others, it’s really really worth it,” Ortiz said.

And, it is appreciated.

“It is. We all need food now, especially in this situation,” Mario said.

A situation known all too well to Councilmember Noel Gallo.

“Grew up here in East Oakland, and it’s a way for me to give back to the people that gave me, at one point in my lifetime, supported me, not only changing my attitude, behavior, but also providing the food services that we needed, growing up on well-fare and section eight,” Gallo said.

“With that Oakland spirit, to really give back to our communities — our diverse communities, and let them know that we appreciate you and we see you,” Thao said.

Councilmember Thao says that she hopes that this event becomes a yearly tradition.

Minus, of course, the need to distribute personal protective equipment.

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