Excellence in Service

Foodbank of Santa Barbara County

Award Sponsor: U.S. Bank

The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County’s mission is to end hunger and transform the health of the community through good nutrition. For 40 years the Foodbank has served as the primary hunger-relief and food empowerment organization in the region. Through its network of 200-plus nonprofit partners, the Foodbank distributes some 10 million pounds of food (including 40 percent fresh produce) in an average year.

The Foodbank serves all food-insecure, low-income residents of Santa Barbara County, including high-need areas of Santa Barbara, Carpinteria, the Santa Ynez Valley, Lompoc, Santa Maria, and Los Alamos. Approximately 190,000 unduplicated individuals access Foodbank services each year. That number grew to more than 235,000 people during the pandemic.

The Foodbank moves clients “from Hunger into Health” with a holistic, bottom-up approach:

1. To provide immediate hunger relief, the organization distributes a variety of healthful and culturally ubiquitous foods through warehouses in Santa Barbara and Santa Maria. The Foodbank is a member of Feeding America and utilizes food system collaborations to procure healthy food.

2. To provide clients with the foundational knowledge and resources to improve their health, the Foodbank hosts a suite of nutrition education programs for children and families, provides CalFresh/SNAP outreach, and teaches food literacy skills to address the root causes of poor nutrition.

3. To build communitywide stability and resilience, the Foodbank has incorporated disaster preparedness and relief into its strategic operations. In 2019, the Foodbank championed the creation of a countywide Disaster Feeding Plan in partnership with countywide stakeholders, which continues to guide the organization’s comprehensive response to economic instability resulting from the pandemic. As the county’s sole distributor of USDA foods and the lead organization of VOAD-SBC (FEMA’s Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster program), the Foodbank is responsible for coordinating nonprofit response efforts when disaster strikes the county.

The Foodbank’s direct-to-client programs are tailored to serve those who struggle most with food insecurity and its associated poor health outcomes, including the working poor, older adults on fixed incomes, children, migratory farmworkers, and the unhoused population. All participants enjoy programs and services free of cost.