Category: News

Collaboration Cooks Up Food Action Plan for Santa Barbara County

Document assesses how food is grown, distributed, consumed and disposed of with an eye toward sustainability and a food-secure future

Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino speaks about the Santa Barbara County Food Action Plan during an event at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria.

Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino speaks about the Santa Barbara County Food Action Plan during an event at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

As students filled bags with fresh produce nearby, Santa Barbara County’s first Food Action Plan was unveiled at Allan Hancock College Tuesday morning, culminating a two-year community effort aimed at assessing how food is grown, distributed and consumed while protecting it in the future.

The Santa Maria event was followed by a similar session in Santa Barbara to reveal the results of 1,200 volunteer hours by more than 200 people representing a cross-section of the community.

Foodbank of Santa Barbara County CEO Erik Talkin said he knows not everyone has access to the wealth of food produced locally. The organization provides food to 300 partner agencies and programs that serve one in four people in Santa Barbara County.

But the county’s abundance isn’t guaranteed into the future due to a number of factors, including the fact the population is expected to grow by 100,000 people in the next 25 years, putting pressure on agricultural lands, water supply, waste processing, open space and more.

“Those are things that are coming down the pike that really need some new thinking. So we’ve tried to address some of these issues in a positive and a creative fashion within the food action plan,” Talkin said.

“We really looked at how we future-proof what we’re doing against things that are going to happen in the future that we can’t really plan for.”

While Santa Barbara County is in the top 1 percent of agricultural-producing counties in the world, it’s in the bottom 14 of California counties regarding to food security. The Food Action Plan recognizes the food system is critical to the public health, economic vitality and environmental resilience, supporters said.

“We need to make sure that those who help keep us fed, whether they’re farm workers or food service providers, can really afford to have access to enough nutritious food, and just as important, the food literacy skills to make good use of that food,” Talkin said. “So we want everyone in the county to enjoy good and food is really recognized as one of the most effective ways of achieving this.”

Erik Talkin, chief executive officer of the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, talks about the newly released Santa Barbara County Food Action Plan.Click to view larger

Erik Talkin, chief executive officer of the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, talks about the newly released Santa Barbara County Food Action Plan. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

The action plan assesses how food is grown, packaged, distributed, consumed and disposed of, identifying steps to improve policies, programs and individual actions guiding how food moves from farms to tables.

“What resilience is all about, more than anything else, is a community thinking about its future and having the audacity to actually want to write that future, to form that future, as opposed to always having to clean up the messes of the hand we’re dealt,” said Ron Gallo, CEO of the Santa Barbara Foundation.

The Food Action Plan calls for four steps which are:

»  Invest in the food economy, including supporting a diverse generation of food and farming entrepreneurs with training, education and preferential purchasing policies.

»  Invest in health and wellness, addressing diet-related challenges by creating a network of neighbor-to-neighbor support and engaging employers, teachers and physicians to promote health eating.

»  Invest in the community, calling for more a effective delivery of safety net services, increasing self-sufficiency in food production and boosting housing availability for food system workers

»  Invest in the foodshed, by protecting farm land, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, cutting food waste and encouraging best practices for managing natural resources.

Other community food action plans led to updated land-use codes to support urban agriculture in Seattle, created diversion for food scraps statewide in Vermont and boosted the number of neighborhood food assets by 30 percent including farmers markets, community gardens and community kitchens.

Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino said he was drawn to the project by the public-health aspect.

“Some of the numbers are pretty sobering,” Lavagnino said.

One in five children in Santa Barbara County lives in poverty and a child living in a food-insecure home has a 30 percent chance of hospitalization, he said.  Developmental delays also are likely and will continue through life.

More than half of the adults in Santa Barbara County are overweight, he said. And 50 percent of the deaths in Santa Barbara County are related to diet, including heart disease, hypertension and diabetes.

Lavagnino served as a co-chair of the plan with First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal, proof of the collaborative effort involved in the effort.

“This is not a North County food action plan; There’s not a South County food action plan,” Lavagnino said. “We all came together. … Everybody’s coming together because we understand there’s a problem and we want to do something about it.”

The Food Share Because We Care program is held twice a month at Allan Hancock College to help struggling students. Click to view larger

The Food Share Because We Care program is held twice a month at Allan Hancock College to help struggling students. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

 

The Foodbank and the Community Environmental Council spearheaded the projects with the Santa Barbara Foundation and the Orfalea Foundation.

Development of the 102-page Food Action Plan involved lawmakers, growers, environmentalists, nonprofit organizations, school, health care, businesses and more.

As the Santa Maria event unfolded, Hancock College students picked up produce under the Food Share Because We Care, a program launched in February for students experiencing food insecurity.

Since its start, the twice-a-month-program funded by the Allan Hancock College Foundation has delivered 25,633 pounds of food to 1,581 students. The Foodbank assists the college with the program, which is run by student government members.

“This Foodshare program has been remarkably popular,” Hancock Superintendent/President Kevin Walthers said.

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NEW HEALTHY COMMUNITY PANTRY

We are excited to announce our newly launched Healthy Community Pantry which provides fresh produce, healthy foods and nutrition education to local families on Santa Barbara’s Westside. Our Healthy Community Pantry, designed like a health fair, takes an innovative approach to building a healthy community and solving the issue of food insecurity. We include healthy lifestyle elements: food demonstrations, food literacy education, physical exercise, gardening tips, CALfresh enrollment (food stamps), health screenings and opportunities for skill building and community involvement. We invite participants to be part of the Nutrition Advocates Network, a nutrition and community leadership program for Foodbank participants. Through this program, participants learn skills to help them improve their situation, such as nutrition, community organizing, project management, and…

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This pantry involves a network of community partners, as well as guidance from community conversations with neighborhood residents. Thank you to Cancer Center of Santa Barbara with Sansum Clinic, Catholic Charities, Cottage Health, Harding University Partnership School and ELAC, Free Methodist Westside Initiative, Office of Cathy Murillo, Santa Barbara Unified School District, Santa Barbara Parks and Recreation, Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics – Westside Neighborhood Clinic, Trinity Episcopal Church, Uffizi Order, United Way, United Boys and Girls Club, Westmont College, Westside Community Group, Westside Healthcare Advocacy Team and William Sansum Diabetes Center.

We are so happy to share another great resource with the community.

Check out the full eNews update here.

Empty Bowls fundraiser draws record attendance

A record number of attendees converged on the Dick DeWees Community and Senior Center on Wednesday to enjoy bowls of soup and aid an important community resource.

More than 600 members of the Lompoc community attended the 12th annual Empty Bowls fundraiser, which benefits the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County.

Although monetary figures weren’t immediately available after the two-hour event, the large turnout, along with the proceeds raised from a raffle and silent auction, had organizers anticipating a total of at least $30,000.

“I think this was our best year ever,” said Alice Down, who co-chaired the fundraiser with Trish Jordan. “All the stars aligned.”

Attendees who made a $25 donation were given a unique ceramic bowl to enjoy a simple meal of gourmet soup and bread.

The meal was symbolic of wholesome and hearty food that the Foodbank provides for the hungry in the Lompoc region.

One Lompoc resident who worked at Wednesday’s event as a volunteer photographer said his reason for becoming involved was particularly personal.

“I’ve actually been a recipient of using the Foodbank when I went through my divorce,” said Shawndel Malcolm, who was in his second year volunteering at Empty Bowls.

“So for me, I just know how valuable it is to our community to have a resource like this and to be able to have food to supplement your income.”

The event included about 110 gallons of soup from 16 various food services, including restaurants and caterers as well as residents.

Judi Monte, a development manager with the Foodbank and one of the event’s organizers, said each dollar raised at the event will equate to about eight meals, thanks to the Foodbank’s collaboration with 34 programs run by local nonprofit and faith-based organizations.

All the money raised at the Lompoc event will remain in Lompoc, she said.

“Everything about this event is bigger and better,” she said as Wednesday’s fundraiser neared its conclusion. “But that matches with what we’re doing: The Foodbank is giving more food to Lompoc, and this is the only fundraising event that we do in Lompoc, so it’s really nice that it’s growing.”

Lompoc resident Mary Harvey, who helps sponsor the event each year, said one of the things she enjoys about the event itself is being able to catch up with people whom she usually only sees at Empty Bowls.

“It’s a really nice local community event — and the soup is really good,” Harvey said. “I think it’s important for people to see each other and see that we’re all supporting people who need help.”

The event’s growth did present some logistical issues.

Finding seating was a problem for some of the attendees who arrived during times of peak attendance.

That’s something that Monte said will be discussed when planning begins for the 2017 event. One option, she said, could involve separate seating times in an effort to split up the crowd.

When asked about potentially changing venues, Monte praised the staff at the DeWees Center and said she doesn’t know of a larger space in Lompoc that would be able to house the event.

Another concern is acquiring the bowls themselves.

Monte said finding enough bowls, which are each handcrafted, is always a concern.

Currently, the organizers rely on student groups — from local grade schools to Hancock College — to create many of the dishes that are used.

“We’re gonna have to up our count next year,” Monte said of the bowls.

“It’s a challenge,” she added, noting it is a good problem to have. “We’ll have to start making them earlier.”

Large Crowd Shows Up For Lompoc Empty Bowls Fundraiser

Annual benefit helps boost funds for Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, which has seen a recent 30-percent increase in demand for food assistance

Judge Rogelio Flores, left, watches as David Toy serves soup to Rhyse Schaffer, 6, while the boy’s mother watches Wednesday afternoon during Empty Bowls of Lompoc.

Judge Rogelio Flores, left, watches as David Toy serves soup to Rhyse Schaffer, 6, while the boy’s mother watches Wednesday afternoon during Empty Bowls of Lompoc. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

 

An assortment of colorful empty bowls and a variety of locally-made soups greeted a large crowd for Empty Bowls of Lompoc on Wednesday.

Local restaurants made assorted soups served in colorfully hand-painted bowls in a benefit for the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County. 

An overflow crowd spilled out of the center and onto the patio.

“I’m pretty confident that our attendance is up this year,” said Judith Monte, development manager. “Everything about this year is bigger and better.”

The Dick DeWees Community & Senior Center hosted the event where attendees purchased a $25 ticket in return for the chance to help end hunger insecurity in Lompoc.

This year’s event gained new soup donors and new sponsors, Monte said.

From July 2014 through June 2015, the Foodbank distributed more than 1 million pounds of food to 17,319 unduplicated individuals through 34 programs run by nonprofit and faith-based partnerships. The number includes the Foodbank’s own direct-to-client programs.

Hayden Montgomery, 6, waits as Azul Hernandez from Scratch Kitchen ladles a serving of soup Wednesday during Empty Bowls of Lompoc.

Hayden Montgomery, 6, waits as Azul Hernandez from Scratch Kitchen ladles a serving of soup Wednesday during Empty Bowls of Lompoc.  (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

That amount of food provided reflects an increase of approximately 30 percent in the community, Monte said.

“It really is a community collaboration to address a community need,” she said.

In addition to soups such as albondigas, cauliflower, broccoli cheese and vegetable, attendees were served bread and water.

At the event, Sam McIlraith from the Foodbank asked attendees to complete the sentence, “I fill this bowl …” as part of a social media campaign to remind people about hunger in the community. Attendees then posed for picture with their sentence written on the small white board.

A volunteer shared, “I fill this bowl because I’m lucky to have food on the table every day and hope others will as well.”

Empty Bowls of Santa Maria occurs in October, while Santa Barbara’s is held in November.

Empty Bowls fundraiser to benefit the Lompoc area happening Wednesday


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The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County is holding a fundraiser Wednesday to benefit the community of Lompoc.

It’s the 12th Annual Empty Bowls Fundraiser.

For a $25 donation, people can receive a gourmet soup luncheon served in handmade ceramic bowls.

This years Empty Bowls Fundraiser will be held at the Dick DeWees Center on 1120 W. Ocean Ave. from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

There will also be a silent auction and at the end of the event, guests get to take the bowls home.

The Foodbank says money raised will stay in the Lompoc area to provide food to the disadvantaged in the community.

Acts of kindness every day

Santa Barbara County is blessed with an abundance of truly generous people. You can see that when attending any one or all of the dozens of charity events each year.

One of those special occasions occurred last week in Lompoc, with that valley’s rendition of the annual Empty Bowls fund-raiser. It took place at the Dick DeWees Community and Senior Center, and by the time the soup was ready for those empty bowls, the crowd had swelled beyond the main hall’s capacity, and folks were lined up on the patio.

That’s what is supposed to happen when really worthy causes are celebrated. In this case, the recipient of the huge crowd’s generosity was the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County. Patrons paid $25 to eat their choice of soups from hand-crafted bowls, the rainbow effect of which was to fill the center with color.

But most importantly, the charitable giving supports one of this county’s most active community organizations. In a typical 12-month period, the Foodbank will collect, buy and distribute more than a million pounds of food to nearly 20,000 county residents, many of whom are children in families that face hunger and/or food insecurity on a daily basis.

It’s hard to envision that need in our communities of such beauty, opulence and plenty, but that is the truth. Hunger hurts, and too many of our neighbors experience that pain.

The Foodbank accomplishes its daily miracle by distributing food through more than 300 community organizations and agencies. It is a network of giving whose value has been recognized by those of us who can afford to give.

The Foodbank thrives on donations of food, but it can do even more with a cash donation. It’s expert buyers can turn a donated dollar into about $7 worth of food purchases. Think about that, and believe in the power of helping others.

That was a common sentiment last week at the Lompoc Empty Bowls event, feelings that were summed up by a patron who admitted to paying to fill a bowl with soup because “I’m lucky to have food on the table every day …”

The Lompoc event was one of three annual Empty Bowl gatherings throughout the county. Santa Maria’s Empty Bowls celebration takes place in October, while the Santa Barbara celebration takes place about a month later.

As we said earlier, this region is blessed with an abundance of giving citizens, which is a very good thing — but something that does not have to be limited to a few times a year.

Foodbank Announces 3rd Annual Santa Barbara Fork & Cork Event

 

Attendees at the 2015 Santa Barbara Fork & Cork Classic. (Foodbank of Santa Barbara County photo)

 

The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County has announced the third annual Santa Barbara Fork & Cork Classic to be held Sunday, April 10, 2016, from 3-6 p.m., at the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club in Carpinteria.

The event’s proceeds will benefit the Foodbank’s 300 local nonprofit partners who supply nutritious meals to Santa Barbara County residents.

Last year alone, the Foodbank served 146,198 people, of whom 51,533 were children.

While an estimated 71 percent percent of County households reported using three or more coping strategies for getting enough food in the past 12 months, 70 percent report choosing between paying for food and paying for utilities.

“We are looking forward to spending the afternoon at the amazing Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club sampling delicious local food and wine — all for a great cause,” said Erik Talkin, CEO, Foodbank of Santa Barbara County. “Santa Barbara Fork & Cork Classic is an important event for the Foodbank. By taking part in this event, attendees are helping to provide healthy produce and staples for in-need Santa Barbara County residents.”

Fork & Cork Classic 2016 will honor the following for the contributions they have made towards advancing their respective crafts as well as their efforts to support the local community, including the Foodbank: Dario Furlati, chef-owner at Ca’ Dario Ristorante and Ca’ Dario Pizzeria; Steve Beckman, winemaker at Beckman Vineyards; and Jack Motter and Jeff Kramer, farmer-owners at Ellwood Canyon Farms.

Nestled between the Santa Ynez Mountains and the sparkling blue Pacific Ocean, the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club is the ideal spot to enjoy an curated collection of premium local wines and fantastic food prepared by over twenty of Santa Barbara’s top chefs.

General admission cost $95. Guests will enjoy tastings from an array of select wines and special dishes prepared by over 20 of Santa Barbara’s top restaurants.

For the price of $125, VIP guests will enjoy early entrance to the event at 2:30 p.m. and access to the VIP Lounge, where they can mix and mingle with old friends and make new ones.

For a full list of sponsors, participating restaurants and wineries, visit the Fork & Cork Class website.

— Foodbank of Santa Barbara County aims to  transform health by eliminating hunger and food insecurity through good nutrition and food literacy.

Allan Hancock College students in need receive food assistance

As college costs rise, more students attending community college say they’re “food insecure.”

That’s why the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County is partnering with Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria to provide produce and food through a new program called “Food Share Because We Care.”

The Allan Hancock Foundation puts aside about $500 a month from the budget to buy items like cereal, crackers, popcorn, and other snacks.

“A lot of people don’t exactly have what most people have, you know, speaking financially… Not everyone gets a meal at night and not everyone is able to go out and purchase things that are of the norm,” said Christina Franco, student.

The food is handed out to students on the first and third Thursdays of each month.

Helping end pain of hunger

The weatherman tells us today will be pretty nice. Highs in the 70s, a little breezy perhaps, with no chance of rain.

Sounds like a good day to get out and do something special, maybe go for a run or brisk walk, play some golf or soccer, get the grill ready for a back-yard barbecue later.

When you have a spare moment in your Saturday, you might also consider making some plans for April 1 for something truly constructive and helpful to friends and neighbors. How about writing this down in the slot for April 1 on your calendar:

Help the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County’s Backyard Bounty program harvest fresh food to be distributed to those facing food insecurity or outright hunger!!!!

We added the exclamation marks for emphasis, because this may be one of the most important things you do this spring, at least with regard to making our communities better.

Backyard Bounty is a mostly-volunteer program that helps the Foodbank harvest fresh produce from farms, orchards and the back yards of folks who like to grow fruits and vegetables.

And there is plenty of that. Each year Santa Barbara County farms, orchards and backyard gardens produce about a billion dollars worth of fruits and vegetables. The problem is, there is so much of these nutritious goodies that a lot goes to waste. Experts reckon about 30 percent of what’s grown locally never is harvested, and ends up rotting in fields, orchards and gardens.

To keep that waste from occurring again, Foodbank officials are seeking cash donations and volunteers to help harvest and distribute 225,000 pounds of fresh produce.

And now is the time to get the crops in. The three-month window opened in January, and so far Foodbank staff and volunteers have harvested 80,000 pounds of fresh local produce. All that from about 40 sites within the county.

Here’s why this is important: In a typical year, the Foodbank serves about 140,000 people throughout Santa Barbara County, which is about 25 percent of the total population.

It’s hard to imagine a place as beautiful and rich as Santa Barbara County has a hunger issue, but we do, and it’s chronic. More than a third of recipients of Foodbank’s help are children, kids 18 and younger. Nearly a quarter of the hungry families and individuals are military veterans, who should be getting more help from our federal government, but are not.

To help those folks, Foodbank collects, buys and distributes more than 9 million pounds of food a year. Foodbank supplies about 330 charitable organizations, who in turn operate at about 100 sites countywide.

It’s a big job, and that’s why the folks at Foodbank need your help — especially with the harvesting of fresh fruits and vegetables during these winter months. Half the food that goes to those in need is the fresh stuff volunteers and Foodbank staff harvest.

You have options. You can volunteer to do some harvesting work by contacting the Foodbank center in your community, or you can make a cash donation. A dollar invested at Foodbank equates to a yield of nearly five pounds of fresh, local produce.

Hunger in Santa Barbara County is real, and it hurts in many ways. Nearly three-quarters of food-insecure families here must make a choice each month, buy food or pay bills. On a personal level, kids without enough to eat have more trouble in school. For them, hunger is a painful distraction.

Contact Foodbank, and help end that pain.