Foodbank distributes food to people in time for Christmas
The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County gave away approximately 50,000 pounds of food Friday to more than a thousand families driving through holiday distribution sites in Santa Barbara and Santa Maria.
“It went fast and furious,” Judith Smith-Meyer, senior communications manager for the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, told the News-Press afterward. “We served 250 families (at Franklin Elementary School) in Santa Barbara and ran out of food at 10 minutes before 12.
“In Santa Maria, people started lining up at 5 a.m.. There was a line of cars six miles long,” she said. “It was in the 40s down there.”
“When we host events like this, we see how willing people are to wait in long lines for food on a cold morning,” Ms. Smith-Meyer said. “It gives a very human presence to people who are having a hard time.”
“We served approximately 800 families at the Santa Maria location,” she said. “In total we served 1,050 families at a rate of four to five people per household.”
“There was a woman in labor who came out to get food for her other children before going to the hospital,” Ms. Smith-Meyer said. “There was another woman nursing a baby that was just one or two days old.
“Approximately two-thirds to three-fourths of those who came out to get food were moms,” she said.
Ms. Smith-Meyer described the mood during the distribution as joyful.
“People work really hard and are in dire straits and cannot make ends meet. They come to the Foodbank, and there is a radiance of gratitude and rejoicing,” she said. “It’s really great to have food when you don’t think you can put food on the table. People are grateful to have food to keep their families healthy.
“Our volunteers feel the same way,” Ms. Smith-Meyer said. “It’s a different kind of reward when you get to see the people you are helping.”
In Santa Maria, 650 turkeys and 1,000 pounds of pork were distributed.
In Santa Barbara, 250 chickens were given away.
In addition, a large amount of produce was purchased for this distribution, including cilantro, jalapenos, onions and oranges. Other food distributed included cheese, tortillas, milk, beans and nut butter.
“It is harder to get produce donated at this time of year,” said Ms. Smith-Meyer.
In Santa Barbara, VIP guest volunteers included members of the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors: Laura Capps (2nd District), Joan Hartmann (3rd District) and Das Williams (1st District).
“The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County is the premier food distribution and hunger relief organization in our county,” Supervisor Hartmann told the News-Press. “They are on the front lines providing nutritious meals to thousands of our neighbors in Santa Barbara County through their network of partner agencies.
“I always look forward to my time volunteering with the Foodbank and am humbled to witness both the great need, but also, the generous spirit of community members, local businesses and our agricultural community who support the Foodbank’s mission and bring a little extra joy and comfort to those most in need.”
Also at the Santa Barbara location were Assemblyman Gregg Hart, D-Santa Barbara, and Santa Barbara City Councilman Mike Jordan.
“It is really important for the community to demonstrate generosity of spirit towards neighbors in need of help this holiday season,” Mr. Hart told the News-Press. “This event is an important opportunity for those struggling to get support and a tribute to the effectiveness of the foodbank to marshall resources and volunteers during this season of gratitude and goodwill.”
Councilman Jordan stressed the importance of the Foodbank’s work.
The lack of healthy food, or food insecurity, too often teams up with the lack of affordable housing to create what should be an intolerable reality — keeping people in poverty, at risk, and tearing at the fabric of our community,” he told the News-Press. “The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County serves a vital need, both ongoing and in times of disaster, to help those most at risk in our community.”
At the Santa Maria location were Guadalupe Mayor Ariston Julian and Santa Maria City Councilman Carlos Escobedo.
“In Guadalupe, we have partnered with the Foodbank for nearly three years to distribute food items to local residents,” Mayor Julian told the News-Press.
He stressed the importance of volunteers helping the Foodbank distribute food to the greater Santa Maria Valley.
Ms. Smith-Meyer said the Foodbank served 111,000 individuals during the third quarter of 2022, which is the highest number since the first quarter of the COVID-19 pandemic. She added that the Foodbank will get numbers for the fourth quarter in January, but said it doesn’t seem like the numbers are decreasing.
“On a day like today we see the human face of those numbers,” Ms. Smith-Meyer told the News-Press. “People are working really hard, working multiple jobs. Both parents are working, and they still can’t put food on the table.
“Donations of any size make a big difference,” she said, adding, “We always welcome new volunteers. We will be training our new volunteers in January.”