Foodbank of Santa Barbara County Targets Troubled Areas in Empowering Ways
There’s curing hunger in America and then there’s doing it the nutritional way. It’s not nearly enough to simply put any kind of food on the table. It’s the right kind of food balanced with a healthy lifestyle that broadens people’s outlook in their everyday lives.
Foodbank of Santa Barbara County has instilled this philosophy for those communities in need since 1982, a 35-year span that’s picking up steam with diversified programs targeting troubled areas throughout the county. The foodbank isn’t just showing up and handing out food to those in need. Instead, it created a culture to empower communities to be self-sufficient through nutrition, exercise and working together.
“We partner with 300 nonprofit agencies and programs to provide food to residents throughout the county in the right places at the right times,” says Judith Smith-Meyer, marketing communications manager. “These programs are closely connected to resident’s lives, from schools to social service organizations to healthcare agencies to churches to children’s after-school programs and more.”
One of the foodbank’s most recent programs is Alma Cena Sana, translating to “soul, person, dinner, to cure.” Launched in March 2017, Alma Cena Sana was born and bred out of the foodbank’s “Food Action Plan” proposing goals and action items to ensure Santa Barbara County has in place a stable food eco-system.
“Alma Cena Sana is the first program established in direct response to guidance in the plan,” says Smith-Meyer. “Primarily that nutrition education and healthy food, along with an active lifestyle, are supported from within communities.”
Nutrition and living an active lifestyle go hand in hand and the foodbank has actively combined the two concepts into their programs since 2011. It began with the Picnic in the Park summer lunch programs to bridge the gap for Santa Barbara County children who relied on school lunch programs for regular nutrition during the school year. For those children who didn’t attend school, no school equated to no lunch. But with fun, physical activities associated with healthy food choices, the program has been successful.
One of the foodbank’s long-time essential concepts is introducing healthy foods, their preparation and exercise to today’s youth. Making a dent in the county’s schools instills good eating habits early on in their lives. Foodbank education programs span a wide range of needs for nutrition education.
“Our Feed the Future children’s programs aim to end hunger within a generation with a comprehensive education program from preschool to the teen years,” says Smith-Meyer. “The Food Literacy in Preschool Program brings seasonal fresh produce items into preschools to introduce fruits and vegetables and teach kids how to enjoy them early.”
In junior high schools, kids can participate in Teens Love Cooking, a six-week course offering cooking classes to prepare wholesome foods supplied by the foodbank. Outside of school, kids can experience their own farmer’s markets, and the foodbank’s Healthy School Pantries combine supplemental foods with healthy eating plans to benefit the whole family.
During the holiday season, the foodbank accepts donations for those in need. For every $1 received, the foodbank can provide eight healthy meals to local children, families and seniors in need. Volunteers are welcomed as well. Last year alone, the foodbank engaged more than 2,300 volunteers who donated more than 25,000 hours of service.
This story was originally published in the Winter 2017-18 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.