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Santa Barbara County Food Rescue Network expands efforts to feed those in need during COVID-19 pandemic

santa barbara county food rescue network
Jennifer Shively
Food donated by Sysco and prepared by Lunchbox being delivered to local veteran.

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - The Santa Barbara County Food Rescue Network, a program of the Community Environmental Council (CEC), announced multiple collaborations made to feed those in need throughout the county during the COVID-19 crisis.

Santa Barbara County Food Rescue pairs donors that have an excess of nutritious food with organizations that serve food to populations in need.

The CEC said that, since 2018, it has led a coordinated rescue of nearly 60,000 pounds of prepared food with the help of more than a dozen agencies including Buellton Senior Center, Casa Serena, PATH and Salvation Army Hospitality House.

 “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," said Julia Blanton, the Santa Barbara County Food Rescue Coordinator. "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 created the COVID-19 Response Food Resources and Collaboration Information Hub.

The Information Hub is a database of 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 by joining the hub.

All information shared on the hub will be 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.

The CEC said 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.

The collaborative was created by Santa Barbara County Food Rescue in partnership with the Santa Barbara Alliance for Community Transformation (SB ACT).

To support CEC's Santa Barbara County Food Rescue efforts during COVID-19, you can donate here. All donations made through June 30, 2020, will be doubled by CEC's Leadership Match fund.

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Jessica Brest

Jessica Brest is a digital journalist and assignment editor for NewsChannel 3-12. To learn more about Jessica, click here.

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