As the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County navigates the challenges of food insecurity during the coronavirus pandemic, it’s been presented with another challenge: power shutoffs.
However, it is prepared for the challenge, fully equipped with generators and determined to ensure healthy food availability for the community.
Public Safety Power Shutoffs are initiated when high temperatures, extreme dryness and record-high winds create extreme vulnerability to wildfires.
As the county experiences world record heat temperatures, and with more than 350 wildfires and nearly 11,000 lightning strikes, preparations are being made for shutoffs as wildfire smoke billows through the air, according to Gov. Gavin Newsome.
“The situation is a real challenge for people. We feel like we’ve dealt with the pandemic and food insecurity, so it’s challenging for people to think about fire season,” Erik Talkin, CEO of the food bank, told the News-Press. “But because of the large number of fires, it’s significant, so we’ve been trying to educate both our agencies and members of the public about things they can do.”
The food bank sent out a PSPS fact sheet to provide safety tips during the outages.
It advises to keep freezers and refrigerators closed, only use generators outdoors and away from windows, not cook indoors with propane or use a gas stove, disconnect appliances and electronics and more.
The food bank also informed community members that it will continue to operate all regularly scheduled food distributions. The food bank has backup generators at both warehouses and keeps all trucks, including refrigerated trucks, fully fueled to transport food to distribution sites and as additional refrigerated storage if needed.
“We planned for this for quite a while,” Mr. Talkin continued. “We’re always here and ready with fresh food if the community members get stuck with spoiled food.”
The food bank has 55 locations across the county that are open to anyone, and no paperwork is required, according to the CEO.
The food bank is also providing replacement benefits to cover the loss of food for CalFresh recipients who lose food as a result of the outages. To request a replacement, recipients must complete, sign and turn in form CF303, include a short description of the food loss, include date and time of the shutoff and call their local county office within 10 days of food spoilage.
“Typically, lower-income people don’t have larger storages of food,” Mr. Talkin said. “They can’t afford to stock up on lots of items, so often food insecurity can impact them quickly after an event like this. We just want to help those people during this time.”
For food safety guidelines or to learn more about the food bank services, visit: www.foodbanksbc.org.