The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County and La Cumbre Plaza teamed up in September to provide 1 million meals across the U.S. through the Million Meals Challenge, an online fundraiser for the food bank that is now being extended into this month.
Though this endeavor was originally planned just for September, both organizations decided to continue it through October to provide meals during the holiday season.
La Cumbre Plaza senior marketing manager Alice Love told the News-Press that the mall’s parent company, Macerich, discovered that the need for food in the communities it serves is “greater than we first thought it was.”
Macerich owns 47 properties in localities across the U.S., and every one of them is participating in a Million Meals Challenge. Though the challenge is being extended by another month, its goal is going to remain a million meals. However, the goal can be exceeded.
“I think we’re keeping it because that’s the name, Million Meals Challenge, but if we can go over that, we’d be very pleased,” Ms. Love said.
Foodbank of Santa Barbara County marketing director and coordinator Alex Varner remarked that the Million Meals Challenge will meet an important need for families and ensure they have one of the staples of a pleasant holiday season.
“Every family deserves to have a holiday meal, and we want to make sure every family has food security at this time,” she said.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the food bank has dramatically increased its food distribution effort. Since the pandemic’s official start date of March 9, the food bank has distributed 11.5 million pounds of food, well above its operational capacity. It has also experienced a 160% increase in food donations from the community and local and commercial agriculture donors, according to Ms. Varner.
Because of these donations, as well as foodstuffs it purchases itself, the food bank is able to make eight meals out of a single dollar. According to the donation page on the food bank website, as of Wednesday afternoon the food bank and La Cumbre Plaza have together raised $853 thus far.
Throughout October, La Cumbre Plaza will expand the Million Meals Challenge by adding an in-person food drive to the online fundraiser. The food drive will be held in the plaza, with a date yet to be determined.
The Million Meals Challenge is not the only effort the food bank has in store to ensure families get a nice meal during the holiday season. From today to Nov. 30, the food bank is holding the End Hunger Games, a friendly competition in which local companies donate money, food and volunteer hours to the food bank.
The food bank will also hold a turkey drive during November.
To donate to the Million Meals Challenge, go to donate.foodbanksbc.org/team/311203.