SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - For thousands in Santa Barbara County, food is the most important Christmas gift they can receive. The situation is even more dire this year.
Up and down the coast, food insecurity has surged since the pandemic began.
Foodbank of Santa Barbara County CEO Erik Talkin says the demand this year is double what it was last year. He also reports that the need has remained consistently high throughout this year, rather than following a typical holiday spike.
“You could say that every week has been Christmas during COVID, and that’s not a good thing, really, in terms of this incredible increase in demand,” Talkin said.
Some who need food are living on the street, but Talkin says more than 90 percent of those who rely on the Foodbank are working families pushed to their financial limits.
“So many families who never expected that they would need the help of the Foodbank are finding themselves, that they do need to come and get help,” he said. “And that’s totally fine. That’s what we’re here for.”
Talkin says the new year will bring a new concern: the federal government will "drastically" cut its food donations to the Foodbank at the end of this year.
“So we’re looking at a big gap for the first three months of next year of the extra government food that we get,” Talkin said. “So we’re gonna have to rely on local donors even more than we normally do.”
Luckily, donors and volunteers have stepped up. To learn more or to volunteer or donate, you can visit the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County's website.
Other community members are taking matters into their own hands.
For the third year, Ragan Thomson and her children, Raven, Sky, Tristan and Aspen continued their Christmas Eve tradition of driving around the community, handing out food and supplies to those struggling with homelessness.
This year, the kids donned Santa Claus hats and delivered holiday treats and essentials like water and toothbrushes.
“We just load up at the store and get food and supplies and we’re just going around town, we just find whoever we find,” Ragan said.
“It just makes us feel happy that people in need can get the stuff they need, because we have the money to buy it but they really don’t,” Raven said.