ALAMEDA -- Just in time for the busy holiday season, the Alameda Food Bank has hired a new executive director: Alameda resident Troy Gilbert.

Gilbert began the job two weeks ago after volunteering with the organization for the past six months and hitting the ground running. That's good news for the community, since the food bank's Thanksgiving turkey giveaway takes place in 11 days.

"I left my job in student services at the University of California at Berkeley in May after 10 years and thought it would be awesome to do something different like run a nonprofit in Alameda," said Gilbert, 51, a native of Indiana. "I volunteered at the Alameda Food Bank and got on the board, too. I spent part of the first day unloading bananas from a truck into our warehouse."

Gilbert replaces Hank Leeper, who resigned in July with plans to relocate to Colorado.

"I am continually surprised by the Alameda Food Bank as an organization, which has such dedicated board members and volunteers, as well as staff," Gilbert explained. "With 200 volunteers, this organization really is about community. It's neighbors helping neighbors and is just amazing to me."

The food bank shared roughly 900,000 pounds of food with nearly 5,400 individuals in about 2,210 households last year, including families with kids, disabled and elderly members. This represents food donated during 18,740 household visits during the year -- up from 16,040 visits in 2009.

"The need has gone up and stayed up," said the father of twins, who is raising them on the Island with his partner John. "I get nervous about possible changes to food programs at the federal level. It's what keeps me up at night."

Local retailers like Trader Joe's, Lucky, Safeway and Target donate large amounts of quality food, along with merchants like Feel Good Bakery. "The Girl Scouts have called so often to help with our canned food collections," Gilbert said. "And at Halloween, a group of 12 middle school students on Bay Farm donated $1,300 in single dollar bills and quarters. People love giving to the Alameda Food Bank, and we are very fortunate."

Community members and supporters who entered the Island-based contest Alameda Haunt Your House collected 1,000 pounds of non-perishable food items.

The food bank give away turkeys from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Nov. 26 at its warehouse, 650 W. Ranger. It gives away more than 1,000 turkeys during the holidays and welcomes donations of frozen turkeys, ham, canned goods or cash at 1900 Thau Way on weekday afternoons (and other times listed on its website, www.alamedafoodbank.org). Volunteers are needed to help distribute food during the holidays; call 510-523-5850 to sign up.