Monday, July 13, 2020     Volume: 21, Issue: 19

Santa Maria Sun / Spotlight

The following article was posted on May 29th, 2019, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 20, Issue 13 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 20, Issue 13

Spotlight on: Community Action Commission of Santa Barbara County, Senior meal programs


Millions of senior citizens in the U.S. are threatened by food insecurity and malnutrition each year. Nearly 7.8 percent of all senior households in the country were food insecure in 2016, according to data collected by the National Council on Aging, including 18 percent of Latino seniors. 

Roughly 700 seniors gather at community centers across the county for lunch every day as part of the Community Action Commission of Santa Barbara County’s healthy table program.

Seniors face a number of challenges when it comes to food and eating—transportation for shopping, high costs of nutritious foods, safe food preparation at home, and poor dental health—factors that can lead some older than the age of 60 to go without. 

The Community Action Commission of Santa Barbara County has been working to change that since it launched its first effort to feed seniors in need during the ’70s. Since then, its senior meal program has developed two options. The first is a Meals on Wheels-type lunch delivery program, in which home-bound seniors have seven meals delivered to their doors each week. The other is a “healthy table” option that allows seniors to eat lunch with other participants at partnering community centers and cafeterias across Santa Barbara County. 

On average, the Community Action Commission provides about 1,400 Santa Barbara County seniors with a total of 156,000 meals each year, according to Chief Operating Officer Anthony Mitchell. That takes some serious funding—about $1.2 million each year. Mitchell said that money isn’t always easy to get. 

“We operate lean and mean,” he said. 

The Community Action Commission employs seven paid delivery drivers and 13 site hosts, who help deliver and serve meals to residents’ homes and healthy table locations, from Santa Maria to Carpinteria. The nonprofit receives about 40 percent of the annual funds needed for the senior meal programs from the region’s agency on aging, the Central Coast Commission for Senior Citizens. The rest, Mitchell said, is paid for through fundraising efforts. 

Each year Community Action hosts a fundraising event called the Community Action Champions Dinner, where the nonprofit honors longstanding partners. At this year’s dinner, which was held in Solvang on May 17, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties’ local Medi-Cal provider, CenCal Health, donated $100,000 to Community Action’s senior meal programs, in addition to a promise of $100,000 in matching funds. 

CenCal Health leaders say roughly 10 percent of their 170,000 members on the Central Coast are seniors. 

The senior meal programs have long been partially reliant on CenCal Health donations, Mitchell said. Since 2009, he estimates that CenCal Health has donated more than $800,000 to the programs. 

“For CenCal to be as consistent as they have been since 2009, I can’t underestimate the impact that has had on sustainability,” Mitchell said.

The Community Action Commission also recently entered into a partnership with the Santa Barbara Unified School District, which is now providing the food and preparing the meals for its senior meal programs. Santa Barbara Unified already provides a number of meals to students each day, and Mitchell said Community Action liked the district’s farm-to-table, largely organic approach. It’s also more cost-effective. 

The partnership officially started on Jan. 1, and Mitchell said, “It’s going swimmingly.”


The city of Santa Maria recently released its third quarterly financial report of the year. The report shows that Santa Maria’s unemployment rate sits at 9.4 percent, compared to 9.7 percent at the same time last year. The city’s sales tax profits have increased by about 5.6 percent from last year, according to the report, due in part to businesses opening at Enos Ranch. The city’s building permitting activity is down 12 percent from last year, although the report notes that major businesses, including Hobby Lobby and Planet Fitness, have recently submitted building plans.

Kasey Bubnash wrote this week’s Biz Spotlight. Information should be sent to the Sun via fax, mail, or email at

Weekly Poll
What'd you make of the county's decision to close beaches for the Fourth of July weekend?

It was sensible since counties to the south closed their beaches.
I was OK with it. I set off fireworks at home instead.
It was ridiculous. The restrictions have to stop.
It didn't matter. I went to SLO County.

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