Disaster Relief & Preparedness

The Foodbank trains for our disaster role on a regular basis.

We are the fiscal sponsors for VOAD-SBC (Volunteer Organizations Assisting in Disaster in Santa Barbara County) which works closely with the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management to ensure agencies coordinate their emergency response efforts in the most effective way. As the lead organization of VOAD-SBC, the Foodbank is responsible for leading disaster response efforts when any disaster strikes within Santa Barbara County.

Improving our disaster preparedness efforts:

We are actively working to enhance our ability to respond to disasters and emergencies. Our current initiatives include:

  • The creation of a cadre of nutrition ‘super volunteers’ ready at short notice to run food programs in specific areas.
  • New programmatic initiatives in food literacy to strengthen community resilience in disaster. The skills training will teach people how to maintain a nutritious diet even with a very limited choice of food.
  • New vehicles to replace our aging fleet and to increase our logistical readiness.
  • A Disaster Summit to train our 300+ member agencies to help us operate most effectively in emergencies.
  • The building of a new South County warehouse large enough to feed the entire community in case the other warehouses become inaccessible.
  • The creation of a new expanded board structure to increase community involvement in the Foodbank and focus on disaster training.

These steps will help us keep the community fed and healthy in times of crisis. This is your Foodbank and we are ready to offer assistance.

25th Hour: Foodbank Disaster Preparedness Conference

In the wake of the Thomas Fire and 1/9 Debris Flow in Montecito, the Foodbank of Santa Barbara is mobilizing its key local partners and member agencies to explore how to more effectively plan and collaborate to keep essential, life-saving services available during an emergency in this one-day conference.

Guests will participate in exercises, workshops, and trainings on topics like mass-care, media and client communication, and volunteer management.

Learning results will be shared with the public via video and a white paper after the conclusion of the conference.

If you are interested in registering your agency for the conference, click here.



The Foodbank is a member of the nationwide Feeding America network of 200 food banks that span the entire country. We train together, advocate together, and source food together.

When disaster strikes, we work together.

When Ventura was overwhelmed during the early stage of the Thomas fire in December, 2017, the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County stood ready to source and deliver food for our Feeding America sister food bank, Food Share, Inc.

During the closure of the 101 freeway after the Montecito debris flow, Carpinteria was cut off from the food resupply provided by our Santa Barbara warehouse.

It was then that Food Share, Inc. readily stepped up and returned the favor, starting a resupply process that ensured healthy food continued to enter the community with the help of our partners and emergency food distributions.

Foodbank team members who lived south of the closure and couldn’t make it to work in Santa Barbara staffed many of the distributions.

The amazing teamwork and strong community allowed us to keep resources flowing during this time of disaster, and now we’re working to make sure it’s even easier next time.

We also collaborate with food bank partners in San Luis Obispo County who can resupply north county, and Fresno who can bring food in from the east.

Since the Thomas fire broke out on December 4, 2017, the Foodbank has increased programmatic, operational, communication and volunteer activities to serve all affected individuals and partner agencies. The Foodbank has been active in meeting nutritional needs across a broad spectrum of the entire community, both those directly affected by the disaster and those suffering secondary effects of economic dislocation.

Foodbank’s operations staff responded to a situation when many of our member agencies were closed and unable to distribute food because of hazardous air quality. In response, we organized new distributions and programs targeted at specific groups and increased individualized food deliveries and volunteer opportunities.

Throughout December, Foodbank provided food to the American Red Cross evacuation shelter at UCSB, distributed food directly to community members at 10 emergency food distribution sites (110 separate food distributions) in Santa Barbara, Carpinteria and Goleta, and provided lunches to students who lost access to free or reduced-price school lunches because of school closings (21 separate lunch distributions at five locations from Goleta to Carpinteria).

With the crisis related to the Montecito Mudslide, the Foodbank arranged special food distributions providing fresh fruits and vegetables, nutritious snacks and lunches, and healthy groceries free of charge to evacuated persons, first responders, students and those facing economic dislocation from disaster-related loss of work and income.

In response to recent disasters in Santa Barbara County, the Foodbank served 12,487 individual clients 363,475 meals (461,613 pounds) from December 4, 2017 through January 31, 2018. This represents 42% more clients and 47% more meals served than in the previous year. 

We continued to serve affected individuals into February at the following sites:

  • St. Joseph Church, Carpinteria
  • Harding University Partnership School, Santa Barbara
  • Franklin Community Center, Santa Barbara
  • Santa Barbara County Local Assistance Center, Santa Barbara

We also supported the set-up of a new bi-weekly Mobile Farmers Market at Main School in Carpinteria to ensure ongoing availability of fresh produce in the southernmost part of the county.

Additionally, we responded to specific needs within the community by providing fresh produce to evacuated families from Montecito Union School in a community-wide collaboration at their temporary instruction site at Santa Barbara City College and fresh produce for dislocated individuals standing in line for hours at the East Beach post office.

The Foodbank has also given $20,000 in food grants to member agencies that provided nutrient dense food to those affected by the disaster. These included Unity Shoppe, Catholic Charities in Carpinteria, United Boys & Girls Club, Salvation Army and Jewish Federation.

We expect that a heightened need will continue in the community due to prolonged economic impacts resulting from lost work, income, temporary housing costs, etc. As always, the Foodbank will adapt plans to provide food to all affected populations countywide.


At the Foodbank, $1 = 8 meals. How? Volume purchase, grocery rescue, grower and retailer donations, gleaning local orchards and private gardens, national and statewide networks of foodbanks. Your monetary donation goes the furthest toward meeting evolving needs.

Donate online or call to donate (805) 967-5741 x 101 (M-F, 8am-5pm)

Volunteer opportunities include food sorting and bagging, staffing distribution sites or event tables, gleaning fresh fruit and vegetables from local orchards and gardens, and more!

Visit Foodbanksbc.org/give-help/volunteer
Call: 805-403-2471

Disaster Relief Overview

The Foodbank is part of VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster), serving as the fiscal agent and leader. During a disaster, the Foodbank is prepared to respond with food and necessary water for those that become displaced.

Please visit the VOAD website for more information:  www.VOADsbc.org.

Be Prepared

Earthquakes, fire, flood or other disasters require immediate response. Planning ahead and practicing your response will help you react quickly. Planning ahead includes taking some time to collect emergency contact information, family medical information, key telephone numbers and insurance information. Below you will find information for getting started.

  1. Make an emergency plan
  2. Prepare an emergency kit
  3. Stay informed about current conditions

For information about disaster preparedness and creating a disaster preparedness kit that meet the needs of your home and family; please visit the following websites:

  • The state of California Office of Emergency Services has useful information for you, your family, home, and pets. Please visit Be Prepared California for more information. www.bepreparedcalifornia.ca.gov
  • The Santa Barbara County Chapter of the American Red Cross is the premier disaster response organization. They offer disaster preparedness classes, CPR and first aid training, and numerous other emergency readiness workshops for you and your family. Please visit the Red Cross website. www.redcross.org/ca/santa-barbara
  • VOAD offers information and planning materials at their Emergency Preparedness for Individuals and Families web page.

Additional information to become familiar with:

In the event of an emergency evacuation, if there is a loss of communications and you and/or your family are separated from one another, decide on a safe place to meet (home, school, workplace, etc) and discuss the travel route that you will most likely use.

Find a safe place to go in and near your house where nothing can fall on you. Decide on a safe place to meet outside the house.
Remember how to ‘Drop, Cover, and Hold On’.

Install smoke alarms on each level of your home and check (every six months) to make sure they work (Replace batteries when necessary.).

  • Create two escape routes for your family.
  • Pick a safe place to meet outside of the house.
  • Conduct regular fire drills.
  • Have a working fire extinguisher with all adults in the home capable of operating the extinguisher.

If possible, take your emergency kit with you and always have a full tank of gas (this will allow you to leave quickly).

If it has been raining steadily, pay attention to TV, radio and online sources for the possibility of a flood. In the case of evacuation, make sure you take your emergency kit and always have a full tank of gas (This will allow you to leave quickly.).

Who is Served

Anyone in Santa Barbara County that becomes displaced as a result of a local disaster including you, your family, your home and pets.

Role in Continuum of Programs

The Foodbank is one of many local organizations that make up VOAD and each contributes based on its particular resources. The Foodbank provides a resource for food and water with distribution coordinated through other VOAD members such as the Red Cross and Salvation Army. The Foodbank’s two warehouse facilities can also act as logistical and communication hubs during a disaster.

Program Impact

The Foodbank’s participation in VOAD is meant to ensure that food is available to everyone in need due to a disaster in Santa Barbara County. It coordinates both food availability and distribution logistics with other local organizations utilizing their particular strengths and expertise to create a strong and prepared local relief and recovery resource.

Program Sites

The Foodbank’s participation in VOAD disaster relief will be based out of one or both of its warehouse facilities. Other participating organizations will have their own specific operational directives.

Program Partners

Please visit the VOAD website at www.VOADsbc.org for information on participating organizations.