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    Santa Barbara County Food Rescue Network Expands to Offer Critical Support to Those In Need

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    Santa Barbara County Food Rescue, a program of the Community Environmental Council (CEC), announces multiple collaborations to support county-wide efforts to feed those in need during the COVID-19 crisis.

    Santa Barbara County Food Rescue matches donors that have excess, nutritious food with organizations serving food insecure populations. Since 2018, this CEC-led effort has coordinated the rescue of nearly 60,000 pounds of edible prepared food for distribution through more than a dozen agencies, including Buellton Senior Center, Casa Serena, PATH, and Salvation Army Hospitality House. Beyond helping people, food rescue mitigates climate impacts by keeping high-quality excess prepared food out of landfills, where it decomposes and emits methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

    Julia Blanton, the Santa Barbara County Food Rescue Coordinator stated, “In March, we saw that widespread unemployment coupled with extended stay-at-home orders would leave an unprecedented number of Santa Barbara County residents without the means or ability to feed themselves and their families. We immediately recognized that the distribution channels, relationships, and networking mindset already in place for food recovery efforts could be quickly scaled up to get donated prepared food to those in need.” The Santa Barbara Foundation, with its funding partners, stepped in to provide support to help this rapid expansion through their COVID-19 Joint Response Effort for Santa Barbara County.

    Scaling up these efforts in response to COVID-19 includes the development of a COVID-19 Response Food Resources and Collaboration Information Hub.

    In addition to leading efforts to capture unintentionally prepared excess food, Santa Barbara County Food Rescue is now compiling and managing a centralized database that identifies what is already being done, where gaps in service exist, and which groups might be able to fill the gaps. This includes matching chefs and caterers who are able to intentionally create prepared meals with agencies that serve seniors, unsheltered populations and others dealing with increased need due to COVID-19.

    All organizations supporting charitable food donation, delivery, or distribution during this time are encouraged to share what they are doing and where they need help through this county-wide database: https://www.sbcfoodrescue.org/join-hub/. The collected information is available for other organizations to view and can be filtered to focus on an agency’s area of interest.

    “By playing matchmaker and relaying information to nonprofits, businesses and government groups, we’ve been able to work together to problem solve for short and long term food needs and more efficiently use resources throughout the county,” said Blanton.

    Sigrid Wright, CEO of Community Environmental Council, noted how protecting the resilience of our food system is part of the nonprofit’s broader strategic goals. “It’s become very clear the past couple months that the food system needs to be able to weather significant disruptions, as COVID-19 will definitely not be our last crisis. CEC’s food recovery network helps ensure that there is a more continual supply of safe, accessible food for all residents of the Central Coast. Ultimately any effort that helps build resilience in the food system will help our community be better positioned to deal with other concerns, such as the impacts of climate change.”

    Innovative projects such as the Community Food Collaborative are also part of this effort. Every ten dollars donated to this new collaborative pays for restaurant workers to turn locally sourced ingredients into a nutrient-dense meal, packaged and ready to be distributed by local nonprofits. Created by Santa Barbara County Food Rescue in partnership with the Santa Barbara Alliance for Community Transformation (SB ACT) and support from Social Venture Partners, the collaborative is currently serving unsheltered populations in southern Santa Barbara County, but will look to expand locations as additional funding becomes available. Initial funders are the Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts, Social Venture Partners, and the Natalie Orfalea Foundation.

    Some of the collaborative successes include:

    • CEC’s Santa Barbara County Food Rescue  connected Lunchbox Catering, wholesale distributor Sysco, and local nonprofits St. Vincent’s and New Beginnings Counseling Center. More than 100 meals were distributed in a matter of days in mid-March to feed veterans and unsheltered people, with hundreds more following over the course of the past month.
    • Since April 28, ACME Hospitality (owners of Santa Barbara restaurants The Lark, Loquita, Tyger Tyger and others) has prepared 500+ meals for distribution to unsheltered populations through City Net and New Beginnings Counseling Center.

    To support CEC’s Santa Barbara County Food Rescue efforts during COVID-19, donate at cecsb.org/give. All donations made through June 30, 2020 will be doubled by CEC’s Leadership Match fund.

    Portions of SBC Food Rescue are funded by the Santa Barbara Foundation and its funding partners through the COVID-19 Joint Response Effort for Santa Barbara County, as well as through a grant from the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) through California Climate Investments. 

    Food donated by Sysco and prepared by Lunchbox being delivered to local veteran. Photo credit: Jennifer Shively
    About the Community Environmental Council (CEC)

    Since 1970, CEC has incubated and innovated real life solutions that directly impact climate change. Our programs lead to clean vehicles, solar energy, resilient food systems and reduction of single-use plastic. We educate and activate the community by producing events like the annual Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival. Find CEC on the web at www.CECSB.org and on Facebook.com/CECSB, Instagram.com/CEC_SB and Twitter.com/CECSB.


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