Santa Maria Sun / Commentary
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 23
We can end hungerThe Foodbank of Santa Barbara County feeds and educates the hungry
BY ERIK TALKIN
We appreciated the opportunity to be involved in the recent piece in the Sun, “The 99 percent.” Sustainability and localization of our food are important issues. However, the piece might have given the impression that the Foodbank was changing its core mission of providing food to emergency assistance agencies and individuals who are hungry. This is most definitely not the case. We remain committed to not only keeping the problem under control, but of ending hunger entirely in our county. This is a big challenge. We are No. 47 out of 52 California counties in terms of having the worst food insecurity situation. (Food insecurity means not being sure where your next meal is coming from).
The generous support of area farmers, particularly in the Santa Maria Valley, and local individuals enabled us to distribute more than 10 million pounds of food last year, of which half was fresh produce. Our name tells the story: we’re the food bank. Food is the resource the community has entrusted us with investing. An incredible resource of 120 million pounds that we have distributed to Santa Barbara County over the last 30 years through our own programs and the 290 member nonprofit organizations in the country that we provide with food.
The hunger in our community is often virtually invisible. It is not something that people feel comfortable talking about. Did you know our work currently touches an incredible one in four people in our community? Just imagine a quarter of the people in a crowded street not always being sure where their next decent meal is going to come from.
The recession has increased the number of people who need our help. The majority of families that we work with have at least one parent holding a job. The challenge comes from making ends meet when hours are being cut or no health benefits are provided, which means that money that would have gone to purchasing healthy food has to be spent on medical bills.
I have been working with hungry people for 10 years now in our county and the vast majority of those we serve are working incredibly hard to try to provide for their families. It is increasingly hard, and the quality of the food consumed is usually the first thing to suffer. This leads to the consumption and over-consumption of non-nutritious food, which makes people less healthy and less able to work. It stops children from learning effectively in school and from growing up strong and healthy. It can become a vicious circle; a circle that we are determined to break.
It is exciting for us, and our 350-plus community volunteers who work to run our programs, to know that we have the “cure” to the problem we are addressing. Giving food alone does not help people look after themselves in the long run. That is why all of our food distributors now offer practical “food literacy” skills, helping people budget, shop, cook, and eat healthy on tight budgets. We also teach people how to grow more of their own food. Many in our community, such as senior citizens or those with mental health challenges, will always need our help, but many others can be helped out of their nutrition predicaments by “teaching a man to fish.”
Our programs to help children become nutritionally strong and independent, such as the Kids’ Farmers Market and Healthy School Pantry, have been recognized with national awards for being the best of their kind. Our Picnic in the Park program keeps kids fed in the summer months and Food Literacy In Preschool starts young children out on the right nutritional path. Our Brown Bag program provides groceries and fresh produce to seniors and our Backpack program helps keep homeless and at-risk kids well fed. These programs are making a big difference now and for the future of our children’s health.
We need your assistance in ending hunger in our county. For each dollar donated to us, we can distribute $17 worth of food. This represents an incredible opportunity to leverage your investment to provide the maximum help to families in need. We would also be thrilled for you to get involved in one of our educational or empowerment programs, teaching kids about food and cooking, doing food demonstrations at our Healthy School Pantries—the options are many and rewarding.
Together we can end hunger in Santa Barbara County and transform the health of our communities through good nutrition!
You can volunteer in the North County by contacting Darlene Chavez at 937-3422, Ext. 109, or at email@example.com. You can also provide us with financial support by contacting Judi Monte 937-3422, Ext. 106, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Santa Barbara County Foodbank CEO Erik Talkin believes that hunger is not something that needs to always be with us; it has a cure and the cure can work. Contact him through the managing editor at email@example.com.
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