Fill the bus with food in Stockton

Do you have non-perishable food items in your pantry that you could donate?

If so, then pack them up and head to Food 4 Less on Hammer Lane every day from Friday, November 17 through Sunday, November 19 for the San Joaquin Regional Transit District’s (RTD) 25th Annual Stuff the Bus Food Drive.

This weekend they will be collecting food donations from community members and local organizations to support those facing food insecurity.

“This is something that is very near and dear to our hearts,” said Maximilian Kao, head of marketing and customer engagement for RTD. “We are more than a public transport agency. We are also part of this community and driven by pride and giving back.”

Tsao describes this food drive as public, impactful and generous.

“This year’s event is more crucial than ever, especially when everyone is feeling the effects of rising food prices and food banks report seeing more families come in and seek help for the first time than any other year,” Cao said.

What items can I donate?

Donations such as frozen turkeys, frozen chickens and frozen ham, as well as non-perishable items, are what the food bank hopes to collect, Tsao said.

Those who make a donation of frozen turkey, chicken or ham will be entered into a drawing for a $50 gift card. There will be two winners, he added.

Last year RTD collected more than 18,000 pounds of food. In 2010 they raised over £40,000 with the help of numerous partners and donors. It was the most food they had ever collected, Cao said.

For their 25th anniversary, they hope to break that 13-year record.

How to donate?

If you can donate, stop by Food 4 Less at 789 W. Hammer Lane in Stockton from 9am-5pm Friday, November 17, Saturday, November 18 or 10am-3pm, Sunday, November 19.

They will help you unload your donations, or you can “fill the bus” yourself.

If you can’t make it to Food 4 Less this weekend, University of the Pacific will also host a food drive from 4:30 to 9 p.m., Monday, November 20 at the Alex G. Spanos Center at 1178 Larry Heller Drive in Stockton.

“The University of the Pacific is offering free admission to both the men’s and women’s basketball games to anyone who donates five or more non-perishable food items at their seat,” RTD said in a statement.

You can also donate daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., hours may vary by location, at Stockton Medical Centers through Friday, Nov. 17.

For monetary donations, visit

Who does the collected food go to?

The food you donate will be distributed to community members who attend the Stockton/San Joaquin Emergency Food Bank Thanksgiving Food Drive from 8 am to 1 pm on Tuesday, November 21st at the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds.

“We can’t do it without RTD. We really couldn’t, we would have to turn around and possibly purchase additional turkeys to meet the needs that are in San Joaquin County,” said Alesha B. Pichler, Community Relations Manager for the Stockton/San Joaquin Emergency Food Bank. “Their support of the food bank over the past 25 years has not gone unnoticed.”

Community members begin lining up around 1 a.m. for food bank distribution. Pichler, however, recommends that people line up as early as 6 a.m. Giveaway starts at 8am

The food distributed will include turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing and vegetables, she said.

“It’s basically Thanksgiving dinner in a box,” Pichler said.

Pichler said the food includes what was collected by RTD and what the food bank has been collecting in recent months.

To receive a food box, you must present a food bank ID or photo ID and proof of San Joaquin County residency, such as a PG&E or water bill with your name and address, Pichler said.

The emergency food bank will also be holding another food drive on Tuesday, December 19 at the “same time, same place, same foods.”

This will be with the help of December’s “Turkey Brigade” fundraiser by the firefighters union and the Stockton Police Association.

Community support

For the past seven years, Ann Zuela Garcia, a kindergarten teacher at Julia Morgan Elementary School, has raised more than $44,000 to buy turkeys for the food bank.

Something she started a few years ago when her friend Jillian Murphy, a board member at the time of the food bank, mentioned they needed turkeys.

“I started out just collecting a few dollars from friends,” she said. “I (donated) like 12 turkeys the first year.”

She raised $6,170 this year. She used $525.36 of the money for 264 cans of cranberry sauce, something she found out the food bank needed after calling them, she said.

She does this for a reason.

“Because people have to eat. People in America should not be hungry, people everywhere should not be hungry. I’m grateful that they trust me and I’m grateful that they see the need and know that we can help fill a tiny speck,” Zuela Garcia said with tears in her eyes. “I’m just grateful for their support and the fact that they’re willing to help people they don’t even know.”

The remaining money will be used at Food 4 Less to purchase turkeys during RTD’s Stuff the Bus Food Drive.

Another supporter of the food drive is the Greater Yosemite Council Boy Scouts of America.

“We have to do it. This is our way of scouting, we have to help other people at all times,” said Robin Wilson, executive director and CEO of the Greater Yosemite Council Scout. “But it’s always good for kids to learn that the community always has a need.”

Scouts go door-to-door the week before RTD’s Stuff the Bus Food Drive, placing door hangers and letting the community know they’ll be back on Saturday, Nov. 18 to pick up any food items they’d like to donate. They drive around, pick them up and drop them off and help fill the bus.

“We’re just asking them to give from their heart from their pantry that they already have,” Wilson said.

Sound reporter Angelidet Rocha covers news from the Stockton and San Joaquin County community. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @Angelaidet Rocha. To keep up with local news, subscribe to The Stockton Record at

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