Santa Barbara County Food Bank deals with produce shortage


Charlie Misra, KSBY News

The drought is affecting nearly everyone and many organizations, including the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County. Its clients are getting less fresh produce because of the state’s water shortage.

Since the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County is part of the California Association of Food Banks, it receives much of its produce from outside the county.

“There’s basically more demand, which would require more supply, especially for produce, from us,” said Jamie Nichols, Director of Operations. “And we’re struggling to make that happen right now.”

For years, Nichols says donors would turn in bonus loads of produce, because they would regularly experience a surplus in their harvest.

“We’ll source food from places like the San JoaquinValley and a lot of regions that were really hit by the drought,” said Nichols. “Over the past year, we’ve seen a lot of those donations dry up because there’s not as much surplus.”

The organization’s food budget has increased three-fold in the last five years. It now operates on a budget of more than $1 million, which is privately funded.

Nichols says the food bank is so short on produce, that during its free mobile farmers markets, clients only have two produce options to choose from, instead of the usual 8 to 10.

He says the bank can’t take in more frozen produce as an alternative, because it doesn’t have enough freezer space.

“We have a few strategies we’d like to use over the next few years, especially pivoting more local rather than maybe going to other ends of the state that are more affected by the drought,” said Nichols.

Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County CEO Carl Hansen says his operation faces the same problem. Its food budget has also tripled over the last five years to $2.6 million.

For information on how to donate to the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, click here.

For information on how to donate to Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County, click here.