“March 9th is the day our organization changed forever,” said Erik Talkin, CEO of the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County. He was describing the challenges in moving communities from hunger to nutritional self-sufficiency during a global pandemic.
Addressing Women’s Fund Individual Members at a virtual coffee last month, Erik shared information about the dramatic increase in the need for food services, along with the need to reevaluate all of the Foodbank’s systems to ensure pandemic safety precautions.
To handle increased space needed for food collection and distribution, the Foodbank doubled their capacity within a week by adding two new temporary warehouses. More than 40 National Guards were deployed to supplement workers delivering food to distribution locations and seniors’ homes.
The Foodbank also added emergency food distribution locations – expanding their partnerships with nonprofits, neighborhood centers, churches, parks – while ensuring all food preparation followed CDC recommendations. Many locations offer a drive-thru option to minimize contact, and others schedule food pick-up appointments for individuals to prevent crowds.
Nearly 1,700 new volunteers have joined the Foodbank since the pandemic began. Through their efforts in Santa Barbara County, they have: distributed 14.5 million pounds of groceries, fresh fruits and vegetables; served 178,000 individuals (five times the number served during the Thomas Fire and debris flow); provided 48,000 deliveries of healthy staples and produce to seniors’ doors; and packed 6,000 grocery boxes each week, for a total of 126,000 boxes of food provided to the community to date.