ORCUTT, Calif. – The Far Western Tavern in Old Town Orcutt hosted a special event Wednesday night where local farmers, growers and companies were honored for their annual donations to the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County.

“It’s a very exciting event for us, once a year we get together all of our food donors who provide a lot of donated food, fresh produce to the Foodbank“, says Foodbank of Santa Barbara County CEO Erik Talkin, “we have some huge companies that provide millions of pounds, we have some smaller growers as well, in this room behind me about half of the entire food that we get for the Foodbank, about four and a half million pounds, these people are responsible for it, so we’re extremely grateful to them and I’m sure the people of Santa Barbara County are too.”

Local growers like Innovative Produce were among those recognized for their generosity and commitment to the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County.

“Our family is actively involved in the Foodbank because we just think its important to give back to the community”, George Adam says, “we try to help people when they are really in need and that’s what helps the lowest in our society, it helps build our community and we can fight a lot of the social problems that we are facing these days.”

Adam says donating to the Foodbank has evolved over the years and become easier and more efficient for local growers, farmers and businesses.

“We’re able to make co-harvesting efficient so it all makes sense, we get a lot more pounds for people that need it”, Adam says, “I think over time there have been a lot of people, a lot of other businesses, that have donated a lot of product and its all part of the community that we’ve always seen with all of the farming families here in Santa Maria.”

Talkin says despite an improving economy and job growth locally, the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County is still serving one in four people in the county.

“There’s a lot of what is called food insecurity which means people have jobs but towards the end of the month they run out of money for really healthy food so they are buying very poor quality food and they get sick and people are able to work less so its kind of like a vicious cycle“, Talkin says, “so the Foodbank is very involved in trying to teach people how to be healthy with eating good food, that doesn’t cost much money, that’s really a big focus for us and there is a lot of need out there.”

Talkin says “Turning Hunger Into Health” is more than just a slogan for the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County

“We believe it can be disempowering for people to stand in a line to get food”, Talkin says, “our focus really is to say, let’s talk together about how we can be healthy as a community, let’s teach you about cooking, let’s give you some food to cook with, and then it changes the conversation, its not about us as the givers and they as the takers, but it’s a joint conversation that we all have.”

“People are really understanding that people need healthy food, its not just a question of giving some empty calories to someone and you might cause them to develop diabetes or something like that“, Talkin says, “people need fresh produce, they need to know how to use it and here we are in Santa Barbara County, we’re in the top one percent of agriculture-producing counties, so if we can’t make it work here, where can we?”

Talkin encourages people to learn more about the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County and its various programs.

“Being healthy with food and moving from hunger into health is something that we can all get involved with”, Talkin says, “its not just a question of donating food or donating money its also about getting involved in a whole range of programs that we run, teaching programs for kids, for adults, about how to cook, how to adapt yourself for food, so it’s a great way for everybody in the community to get involved.”