Foodbank recaps 2013 achievements, challenges

January 9, 2014  •  Staff Report

In 2013, with innovative direct programs and coordination of a 300-plus community program network, the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County distributed the food and resources to support 8.5 million meals — half of which was fresh produce.

The Foodbank provides nourishment and education through its award-winning programs and a network of more than 300-member nonprofit partners. This year, one in four people living in Santa BarbaraCounty received food support from the Foodbank, totaling more than 102,000 unduplicated individuals including working families and seniors. More than 44 percent of those served were children.

The Foodbank provides nutritious food while empowering the community to overcome a root cause of hunger through its Feed the Future nutrition education programs for children and families from birth through high school.

The Healthy School Pantry program has grown to serve children and families in 16 critical locations countywide in just two years.

By supporting the Foodbank, donors are also supporting the good work of 300 agencies and programs countywide, Foodbank officials noted. The Foodbank serves the community through its innovative direct programs and through its collaborations with the member agencies throughout the county.

Some of the top agencies among the Foodbank’s member network include: Boys & Girls Clubs (countywide), Catholic Charities, Community Action Commission, Domestic Violence Solutions, People Helping People, Salvation Army, Santa Barbara Rescue Mission, Santa Ynez Senior Citizens Foundation, Transition House, Unity Shoppe and many more. For a full list of member agencies, visit www.foodbanksbc.org/memberdistribution.html.

In addition to providing nutritious food throughout the year to nonprofit partners, the Foodbank holds an annual Agency Leaders Summit calling together representatives of the member agencies and welcoming other community nonprofits.

The Foodbank’s Summit is a platform for open dialogue about issues of poverty, hunger and health, plus how these issues are interconnected, collectively brainstorming and identifying ways to solve issues around hunger in our region.

This year, the Foodbank also introduced AgencyExpress, a secure “online shopping” platform for member agencies that is increasing the efficiency of food orders and distribution logistics.

The new system provides local agencies with a real-time inventory list and ordering system, and order histories; and in turn, enables the Foodbank to be more responsive and minimizes the time previously spent on administration and paperwork, officials said.

As the Foodbank continues to increase its impact through children’s health and fresh produce initiatives, there is still a need for support to face today’s regional challenges, officials said.

Data from the California Food Policy Advocates shows that the problem of food insecurity and hunger has become more dire in Santa BarbaraCounty.

In the last four years, the Population in Poverty has gone from 12 percent to 16 percent, the number of Children in Poverty increased from 14 to 20 percent and the number of food insecure adults rose from 37,000 to 56,000 — an increase of 66 percent.

At the national level, major challenges to food security are built into the pending federal “farm bill” legislation. More than 47 million food stamp program participants were impacted in November due to a $5 billion budget reduction as an economic stimulus package reached its expiration. The farm bill cut, anticipated as early as this month, could result in the loss of more than $8 billion in food stamp benefits for the poor over the next 10 years, according to some reports.

“These cuts will mean people (many of them being seniors and children) getting less help from the government and will increasingly rely on the Foodbank and partner agencies to fill the gap,” said Erik Talkin, CEO for the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County.

The Foodbank officials also thanked volunteers who help distribute food and invest their time and talent to help others.

Those interested in continuing to help can make an online donation to Foodbank of Santa Barbara County. For more information, visit www.foodbanksbc.org.

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