Tag Archives: food

Organic Soup Kitchen Crab Boil Fundraiser Raises $30,000

Funds move low-income cancer patients, seniors, and chronically ill off waiting list   

Organic Soup Kitchen hosted a Crab Boil on Saturday June 5, raising $30,000 to support low income cancer patients, seniors and chronically ill who have been placed on the organization’s waiting list. As demand for nutritional services skyrockets and funding declines, Organic Soup Kitchen has been forced to put people on a waiting list for their services. The Crab Boil is the first in a series of pop up fundraising events that will provide a critical stream of revenue to support home delivery of their immune strengthening SoupMeals to Santa Barbara’s most vulnerable residents. Event pictures can be found here. 

“It was wonderful to see the community come together for a safe, outdoor celebration to support those who have been on our waiting list,” says Andrea Slaby, Chief Operating Officer at Organic Soup Kitchen. “The inundation of new clients has not slowed since the pandemic started, and our fundraising efforts will be critical in our ability to continue to nourish and provide food security to the thousands of residents facing medical and financial hardships. 

A leader in the organic food industry, Organic Soup Kitchen has been recognized for their integrity in selecting only premium whole food ingredients including organic produce and medicinal quality herbs and spices. Working closely with leading oncologists, they work diligently to formulate SoupMeal recipes that strengthen the immune system, promote healing and increase vitality. SoupMeals are hermetically sealed in BPA-free containers providing clients with 100% safe, clinically-backed nutrition with no additives, preservatives or fillers. SoupMeals are available for purchase and every SoupMeal sold provides soup to a community member in need. 

The fundraiser was made possible by the following organizations: Santa Barbara Fish Market, Andersen’s Bakery, Gethooked Seafood, SamSara Vineyards, Firestone Walker Brewing Co., Santa Barbara Winery, Arosha Inc, Wendy Foster Boutique, Mollusk Surf Shop, Presqu’ile winery, Carr Wines, Open Potions, Chef Ayda Robana, Heritage Goods and Supplies, Salty Strings Band, Taiana Designs, Minotti Los Angeles, John Rapp Artist, Covet Boutique, Imagine Boutique, Jason & Linda Baffa. Inc., Stardust Boats, Artist Josh Soskin, Yoga Soup, Tamara Honey Interior Designs, Artist Trevor Gordon, Atwill Pilates, The Merito Academy, The Giefer’s, Sol Wave Water, Merci, Bill Howard Photography, Bree’och Bakery, Alan Parsons Project, Klaus Moeller Inc. For information please visit www.organicsoupkitchen.org.

2020: A Challenging (and Rewarding) Year Like No Other…

2020 was a year like no other, and it confirmed for us that nothing – not even a worldwide pandemic – could hamper Unity Shoppe’s dedication to the people of Santa Barbara, especially those who felt most vulnerable or experienced sudden job loss and needed a place to turn during this crisis. 

Led by our fearless founder, Barbara Tellefson, we quickly moved into high gear, consolidating all of our programs and services down to distributing food alone in a way that was safe and would help as many people as possible without losing site of our 100-year-old mission: to offer people choice in what they receive and to do so without compromising their dignity or self-respect. 

We quickly secured PPE, kept our essential staff and our Community’s most at-risk members healthy and safe, followed all safety guidelines, and met intense cleanliness standards. By doing so we were able to accommodate residents who could shop at Unity directly and receive free groceries they picked out themselves: farm fresh fruits and vegetables, refrigerated dairy products, poultry and beef, bread and baked goods, and canned and boxed staples too. The need for food has been so critical over this past year that we worked hard to ensure our clients, many of whom were families of 4-5 people, could shop for everything they needed every other week (up from only once per month in pre-Covid times). Hours were extended and front of the line privileges and automatic car loading assistance was offered to anyone who needed it by our essential staff, much like at any other supermarket around town. But not everyone was able to shop in person; for immuno-compromised, disabled or homebound residents from Goleta to Carpinteria, we instituted a highly sought after delivery service of groceries they pre-selected and we delivered right to their door.

For more information about Unity Shoppe, visit www.unityshoppe.org.

Dine & Donate: Los Agaves to Donate Proceeds of April 21 Event to Friendship Center

In an event sponsored by the Santa Barbara Association of Realtors (SBAOR), Los Agaves Restaurant is cooking up an authentic Mexican meal for charity.

Meal pick-up is Wednesday, April 21 from 4:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. All proceeds support Friendship Center, an Adult Day Program located in Montecito and Goleta, providing programs that honor individuality, promote socialization, and foster a compassionate community for aging adults.

Follow this link to register: https://www.sbindytickets.com/events/111248192/dine-donate 

Please note, entree selections are chosen at the end of the checkout process, with your choice of enchiladas, taco bar or chicken fajitas, with options available. Generous portions with all the fixings are large enough for two or more people and include two margaritas. 

Contact Sophia Davis: sophia@friendshipcenter.org for more information about this event. Visit Friendship Center’s website at: https://www.friendshipcentersb.org.

Feeding Our Community: The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County Adjusts to Meet Our COVID Needs

To say that the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County has been busy is an understatement – the nonprofit distributed 9,708,944 pounds of food over the course of a year, including some four million-plus pounds of fresh vegetables and fruits.

Sounds like a lot, right? 

Sure, but that’s the year preceding the COVID crisis in California.

From March 9, 2020, to March 8, 2021, the Foodbank doled out 18,421,361 pounds of food, including just shy of eight million pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables.

To get there, it took an operational plan to place a priority on both feeding the county, but also doing it safely for all involved.

When the pandemic began to pervade Santa Barbara County in mid-March 2020, it resulted in an increase in need for healthy sustenance due to the mandatory stay-at-home orders, business restrictions, and lockdowns. 

This is not to mention the viral infection taking hold, but the Foodbank stepped up – quickly.

Within weeks, the organization whose formal mission is to transform hunger into health by eliminating food insecurity through good nutrition and food literacy, pivoted to abide by the new protocols. 

The Foodbank created the Safe Access to Food for Everyone (SAFE) Food Net, working with government disaster response agencies and nonprofits, as well as the education, healthcare, and business sectors to establish more than 50 SAFE Food Net distribution locations. 

These sites were in neighborhoods throughout the county so residents could safely find sustenance near their own homes. More than 20 of the locations even offered complete no-contact, drive-thru service for enhanced safety.

Among other programs, Foodbank also launched a home-delivery service that provided 1,500 low-income, high-risk seniors already partaking of its Brown Bag program with boxes of healthy groceries and fresh produce food delivered to their doors. The nonprofit also tripled the program, enrolling more than 3,000 additional seniors in home delivery and adding other households that were experiencing severe medical circumstances.

How was the nonprofit able to respond so rapidly with a massive upscaling to meet the unprecedented demand? The organization isn’t new to disaster, especially two years removed from the Thomas Fire and Montecito debris flow.

“I think we’d become a little bit complacent before the fire and debris flows,” Foodbank CEO Erik Talkin explained. “They enabled us to really rethink our approach and increase our ability to respond to a disaster over a long period of time and avoid staff burnout.” 

Of course, the pandemic required a completely different kind of pivoting, he said. 

“Obviously foodbanks have been all about trying to get people to come to one place and get large amounts of food at one time. That wasn’t going to work with COVID, where that would be the last thing you would want to do,” Talkin said. “So we had to really upend our model and learn to do new things to build that capacity and scale up.” 

That included finding ways of storing and moving much more food than before, which the Foodbank solved temporarily by borrowing two additional warehouses to augment its current facilities. 

But that didn’t solve how to find people who weren’t familiar with how the program worked. 

“That was a real challenge, having to identify a system where people could indicate they needed food delivered so we could plan routes and get volunteers to drive those routes and make sure that they received food in a safe fashion,” Talkin said.

A First-Time Experience

Since COVID hit Santa Barbara County, the Foodbank has supplied 18,421,361 pounds of food

The pandemic produced food insecurity among people who work in the tourism-related services, or even restaurants and other food industries.

These people never imagined they would need this kind of help. 

“With the pandemic, so many people need help. It’s affected a wide variety of people. Who are we to say who is the type of person we want to serve? There’s so many people of all sorts who need help,” explained Talkin, who has published Lulu and the Hunger Monster, a children’s picture book that aims to enable kids to feel fine if they or their family needs help with food.

Now that many county residents have already been fully vaccinated, and with increased supply of the three approved vaccines, can we expect the Foodbank to return to its pre-pandemic programs?

Not so fast, said Talkin. 

“Although the pandemic is winding down, the need for our services is not realistically going to be dramatically reduced for another 18-24 months,” he said. “People have built up a lot of debt. People are still unemployed or underemployed. And the federal subsidies are coming to an end. All the studies that we’re doing and the national studies from the Congressional Budget Office related to unemployment show there will be a need for emergency food at much larger levels right through most of 2022.”

So, no, the Foodbank won’t be scaling back services in the near term. 

And it will be keeping some of the lessons that it has learned, including how it operates educational programs, with some staying online even after it is safe to be in-person.

All this increase in demand and services, of course, means a continued need for financial support – even though the Foodbank continues to turn $1 donations into eight meals.

That’s courtesy of volume purchasing and strong partnerships with farmers and other food partners. 

But it does have one need – a new facility in Santa Barbara.

Currently, the Foodbank is working out of a small, converted fire station with no loading dock, causing it to lean heavily on its North County warehouse.

That means it needs to truck all the food down, which Talkin says doesn’t “make sense environmentally.”

“Or worse yet, if there is an earthquake or other disaster and the roads are cut off. So finding land or a location to build a new South County warehouse is a big focus for us at the moment,” Talkin said.

While a donation leading to solving that problem would of course be more than welcome, Talkin noted that everything helps.  

“Our greatest need is for the community to engage with us in whatever way they feel comfortable,” he said. 

“I’m just amazed at the community’s response and how they’ve supported us already. I think it’s because they know it’s absolutely vital to have a strong Foodbank for a resilient community. That’s how you keep people fed and healthy during a challenge.”

Organic Soup Kitchen Gets a Makeover

A new antimicrobial floor and upgraded office space to better serve clients 

Organic Soup Kitchen’s 2,000 square foot commercial kitchen is closed for upgrades and will reopen on Monday, March 29th with a new antimicrobial floor and the addition of new office space. The non-porous epoxy floor will be waterproof, anti-skid and specially designed to prevent the growth of bacteria, fungi and mold. Because of its safety and unparalleled hygienic properties, this type of flooring is commonly found in food manufacturing, pharmaceutical and healthcare facilities. The new office space will be located above the kitchen and be a critical infrastructure improvement as the organization expands to meet skyrocketing demand. 

“Every step in our soup making process, from using organic whole foods to hermetically sealing each container, is to provide our clients with a product that is as clean, healthy and healing as possible,” says Andrea Slaby, Chief Operating Officer at Organic Soup Kitchen. “This antibacterial floor is just another example of our commitment to providing clients with a SoupMeal product that is 100% safe and free from viruses, bacterias and other airborne pathogens.” 

Since 2009, Organic Soup Kitchen has been the only organization in Santa Barbara County to handcraft and deliver metabolic oncology SoupMeals to the homes of low-income cancer patients, seniors and chronically ill. The esteemed Cancer and Chronic Illness Recovery Program has become a trusted resource for all residents facing medical or financial hardships. Clients are referred to Organic Soup Kitchen from nearly 20 of the most prominent agencies in the County’s public health and human services sector including Cottage Hospital and all of the local cancer centers. Organic Soup Kitchen also provides SoupMeals to nearly a dozen agencies that distribute them to their low income residents and clients who would otherwise not have access to nutrient dense food. 

A leader in the organic food industry, Organic Soup Kitchen has been recognized for their integrity in selecting only premium whole food ingredients including organic produce and medicinal quality herbs and spices. Working closely with leading oncologists, they work diligently to formulate SoupMeal recipes that strengthen the immune system, promote healing and increase vitality. SoupMeals are hermetically sealed in BPA-free containers providing clients with 100% safe, clinically-backed nutrition with no additives, preservatives or fillers. SoupMeals are available for purchase and every SoupMeal sold provides soup to a community member in need. For information please visit www.organicsoupkitchen.org.

At Covid-19 One-year Mark, Foodbank Deepens Commitment to End Hunger Amid Unprecedented Need

In addition to meeting doubled demand for supplemental food for the last year, Santa Barbara County’s primary food assistance organization deepens commitment, expands partnerships to serve those most vulnerable in our community

The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County has met twice (or more) the usual need for food assistance countywide for nearly one year since the Covid-19 crisis began in early March 2020. At that time, viral infections, mandatory stay-at-home orders, business restrictions and lockdowns began in California, plunging residents of Santa Barbara County into unprecedented need. 

“I couldn’t be more proud of the Foodbank team and organizations across Santa Barbara County for working together to implement our Disaster Feeding Plan so swiftly and gracefully when the Covid crisis struck our area,” explained Foodbank CEO Erik Talkin. 

“We put our heads together, using lessons learned from the Thomas disasters, and mounted a creative, strategic response based on strong relationships and providing food at or near where people live. Our Covid response has endured and evolved over the course of a highly volatile year, proving how scalable and adaptable the Plan is.”

Providing Food for Everyone in Need

Within weeks, the Foodbank established the Safe Food Access for Everyone (SAFE) Food Net, working with county- and city-government disaster response agencies, nonprofit organizations, and the education, healthcare and business sectors. The Foodbank established 50+ certified SAFE Food Net food distribution locations in neighborhoods throughout the county so residents could find food safely near their homes. More than 20 of the locations offered no-contact drive-thru service for enhanced safety.

Total pounds of food distributed between March 9, 2020 and March 8, 2021: 

19,549,119

Pounds of fresh vegetables and fruits distributed, same time frame: 

8,313,581

For comparison, same time during previous year:

Total pounds of food distributed between March 9, 2019 and March 8, 2020: 

9,708,944

Pounds of fresh vegetables and fruits distributed same time range: 

4,086,509

A home delivery program was launched that provided the 1,500 low-income seniors served by our Brown Bag program with healthy groceries and fresh produce food at their doors. The Foodbank also enrolled more than 3,000 additional seniors in the Brown Bag program, providing triple the usual low-income seniors in the county with home deliveries. Households experiencing severe medical circumstances were provided with home deliveries by request.

Total home deliveries provided since March 9, 2020: 60,000

Capacity-building

As lockdowns and mandatory stay-at-home orders led to precipitous job and income losses and economic collapse, need for food assistance doubled countywide. 

In order to meet the need, Foodbank procured additional physical capacity by acquiring additional warehouses in Santa Maria and Goleta to hold inventory and provide space for safely distanced volunteer efforts. Large refrigerated trailers were added at each of the Foodbank regular warehouses to expand cold storage. New trucks were purchased to transport food between north and south county, to deliver food to more food distribution sites and to expand cold food storage.

The Foodbank enlisted invaluable additional human resources via the following sources: 

  • New hires, for a 15% increase in total paid staff
  • Thousands of new community volunteers and interns
  • California National Guard
  • AmeriCorps VISTA
  • Cesar Chavez Environmental Corps 
  • Workforce Development Board / United Way’s dislocated workers program
  • Team Rubicon, and
  • Red Cross.

The Foodbank team organized almost 15,000 volunteer shifts representing more than 27,000 volunteer hours.

Communications

To ensure that community members could find information about where and when to receive food, the Foodbank provided updated information via:

  • A collaboration with the City of Santa Maria and the County’s 2-1-1 service to offer live phone assistance to provide food location guidance and home delivery sign-ups;
  • Hard copy paper flyers updated multiple times each week;
  • Downloadable .pdfs in Spanish and English, 
  • Scrollable listings on the website, and
  • A brand new bi-lingual text-to-find-food program to serve those without wifi or smart-phones.

New Initiatives: Supporting Local Business and Reaching Underserved Populations

At the peak of the crisis, when businesses closed suddenly, the Foodbank partnered with local restaurants The Lark and Loquita for the Chef’s Kitchen program, to provide more than 10,000 nutrient-dense, gourmet meals to seniors and households in need throughout the county. The program helped valued local businesses keep their staff employed.

Families with school children represent a segment of the community facing unique need as parents lost jobs and children could not attend school. In collaboration with districts countywide, the Foodbank provided boxes of healthy groceries and fresh produce to kids’ families at the same times and locations where picked up school lunches.

To serve families experiencing the highest need, the Foodbank is collaborating with schools and other community organizations to broaden the reach of our award-winning Healthy School Pantry (HSP) program. Adding to a base of six existing programs, the Foodbank has identified 10 more high-need neighborhoods countywide where new HSPs will be launched in the coming year. 

At a Healthy School Pantry, families receive nutritious groceries and fresh produce, and have access to health and nutrition education, recipes, and other wrap-around services and resources from additional providers.

One of the most painful ironies of the pandemic has been that essential workers who provide healthy local produce for others of us have been least equipped to provide their own families with that same nutritious food. 

Launched in July, the Food Access for Farmworkers outreach program provides food in locations where high concentrations of farmworkers live. The reason this works better than providing food at work sites is that farmworkers often carpool to work or are transported there in vans. Shared vehicles would not have enough space to hold the food they receive. Also, many don’t have personal transportation, so they and their children can walk to food distribution sites and carry the food home easily. 

The Foodbank’s Food Access for Farmworkers program has served more than 4,800 unduplicated individuals, providing over 200,000 pounds of food at five sites in north county. The Foodbank aims to serve 500 families per month and expand locations for this program to other areas of the county. 

In collaboration with CenCal Health, the Foodbank also launched a Food Prescription (Food Rx) program to deliver boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables to families with children with obesity. The program is currently serving 60 families, with a goal to reach 70 families this year.

Nutrition Education

In a time when health is a central concern, the Foodbank has pivoted to make nutrition education safely available to as many in the community as possible.

Food as Medicine, a series of free public presentations on eating for optimal health, moved from live events and periodic podcasts to interactive webinars covering topics including power of cruciferous vegetables, food and mood, digestion, and diet trends.

The Foodbank’s nutrition educations programs for children – such as Kids Farmers Market (KFM) and Food Literacy in Preschool (FLIP) – which normally take place during or after the school day, evolved into a hybrid model incorporating both activities and information sent home with food boxes for students’ families, along with online education modules and videos for students.

About the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County

The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County is transforming hunger into health by eliminating food insecurity through good nutrition and food literacy. The Foodbank provides nourishment and education through a network of more than 300 nonprofit community partners and more than 2,000 volunteers annually. In Santa Barbara County, one in four people receive food support from the Foodbank, which equates to more than 191,000 unduplicated people, 41% of whom are children. In the past year, the Foodbank distributed nearly 19 million pounds of food –half of which was fresh produce. This represents twice as much food distributed in an ordinary year. The Foodbank is assuming a major leadership role in countywide disaster preparedness with initiatives including a host of Covid-19 response programs, disaster food boxes, disaster feeding plan, establishing a new south county warehouse and updating our trucks for safer food storage and transport. For more information, visit www.foodbanksbc.org.

Feeding Hungry People During a Rolling Crisis

When disaster struck in the form of COVID lockdowns and an unfolding economic crisis, the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County was ready. 

In response to the deadly double blow of the Thomas Fire and debris flow, the Foodbank developed a comprehensive “Emergency Feeding Plan,” which mapped out how to respond to a wide range of disasters. It hinges on coordinating emergency feeding plans across the county and alongside at least 300 partner agencies. 

“The need immediately jumped by 250% after COVID,” says Marketing and Communications Manager Judith Smith-Meyer. “Relationships are a cornerstone of the Emergency Plan. When we needed to act, we were ready and we did it.” 

A sad truth about the economic crisis wrought by the pandemic is the profile of those coming to the Foodbank. In South Santa Barbara County, an area so reliant on tourism, service workers have found themselves scrambling to make ends meet. Carpinteria saw needs rise some 300%, according to Smith-Meyer. 

“Precipitous job losses have left thousands of households facing food insecurity for the first time, and many struggle even more than usual to make ends meet,” says Foodbank CEO Erik Talkin. “We’ve seen countless new visitors hesitate to receive food, saying, ‘I don’t want to take food from someone who needs it more.’”

When a Foodbank client named Kathy’s new full-time job fell through in April, 2020, she didn’t know what to do. She had to feed her children, and came to rely on a no-contact drive through run by the Foodbank. “At least I don’t have to worry about my kids having enough healthy food to eat until we get the job thing sorted out,” Kathy says. By press time she was still unemployed. 

As federal stimulus programs fade, and those on the margins are crushed by an ailing economy, the Foodbank will be there. 

“The most important thing the Foodbank wants our community to know is that we are ready, and we are here for everyone,” Talkin says.