Community partners and volunteers come to the aid of a nonprofit overwhelmed by the pandemic’s demands
As the economy withered in the weeks following California’s COVID-19 quarantine order, the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County saw a threefold increase in the amount of food it provided to community members.
Stressed county residents as well as Foodbank staff and volunteers worried about dwindling food supplies and greater food insecurity.
But with the help of a strong network of community partners like Aera and the National Guard, the Foodbank is faring much better.
“COVID has stripped normalcy from the lives of our neighbors here in Santa Barbara County and created a major disruption in food security for many,” said Rick Rust, Aera’s public affairs representative for Santa Barbara County. “Helping people put food on the table is one of the ways Aera can continue building strong communities until people can get back on their feet.”
In March, the nonprofit initiated a Safe Access to Food for Everyone (SAFE) Food Net and a SAFE Home Delivery program for seniors. The contributions that effort has raised from the community have helped the Foodbank rise to the challenge. As a result:
- Santa Barbara County now has 50 locations where community members can receive food, including 22 no-contact drive-thru sites.
- The Foodbank has provided 3.14 million pounds of groceries and fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Volunteers are packing 6,000 grocery bags a week.
- More than 10,000 home deliveries of healthy staples and fresh fruits and vegetables have been brought directly to seniors’ doors.
- The Foodbank has served 85,000 individuals. That’s far more people than in any recent disaster in Santa Barbara county, including the December 2017 Thomas fire and the deadly debris flow in January 2018.
The 20 National Guard personnel deployed to help have provided skilled labor to meet increased operational volunteer and staffing needs. The reserve military group’s assistance has been particularly important since the Foodbank recently doubled its space with the opening of two temporary warehouses.
“It’s incredible to see the outpouring of support from our community,” said Laurel Alcantar, the Foodbank’s development manager. “We’ve seen so many of our neighbors step up and volunteer to deliver and sort food, donate and help us spread the word. The amazing community we live in has really come together to help us support our neighbors during this difficult time.”
To donate to the Foodbank, visit foodbanksbc.org or call Development Manager Laurel R. Alcantar at (805) 967-5741 x304.