Sunday, May 29 , 2016, 6:54 am | Fog/Mist 56º

Fork & Cork Classic Feeds Foodbank of Santa Barbara County and Its Vital Programs

Inaugural benefit raises $50,000 while honoring local legends Michael Blackwell, Leslie Mead Renaud and Clarissa Nagy

By Melissa Walker, Noozhawk iSociety Columnist | @NoozhawkSociety |

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The scenic Montecito Country Club was the host for a renamed annual event benefiting the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County and, most important, those the organization serves.

Last year the event was called Taste the Nation, and Santa Barbara organizations were provided with a small amount of funding to help people in hunger.

Now, the rebranded event assists the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County and local residents in much bigger ways.

“This year the event is called the Fork & Cork Classic and Santa Barbara County nonprofits are taking home 100 percent of the money raised here today,” Foodbank CEO Erik Talkin told Noozhawk.

The Fork & Cork Classic assisted Foodbank’s more than 300 local nonprofit partners and youth programs — among them Teens Love Cooking, which provides middle-school students with the opportunity to learn cooking skills, and an upcoming summer program, Picnic in the Park.

“It’s a program for kids who are 18 and under who would normally be getting some of their meals subsidized through the schools,” event chairman Mickey Neal said. “And since school’s out, this summer there’re many parks throughout the county that they can go out and get a meal.

“They are the future, and if they learn to start eating healthy early, it prevents a lot of problems.”

The philosophy of the Foodbank is to appreciate good food and good nutrition, “and we expect everyone in our county to be able to enjoy the exact same thing,” Talkin said.

More than half of the 10 million pounds of food that Foodbank distributes annually in the county is fresh produce. In all, 300 member agencies and the organization’s own programs served more than 102,000 unduplicated people in 2013 from Santa Maria to Carpinteria.

“The need is huge in our county,” Talkin said. “We’re serving one in four people in our county. That’s an amazing number of people.”

The inaugural Fork & Cork Classic raised $50,000. According to Neal, for each dollar the Foodbank gets, it can provide $17 worth of healthy nutritional food in the county.

“Santa Barbara County is such an affluent area but there are a lot of people who are in need, and it’s great to be part of an organization that helps in the local community,” Neal said.

The Fork & Cork fundraiser also honored three local restaurant and winemaking luminaries with a Modern Master award for their community contributions, including Montecito Country Club chef Michael Blackwell; Leslie Mead Renaud, director of winemaking at Foley Estates; and Riverbench winemaker Clarissa Nagy.

Celebrating more than 30 years of service to the county, the Foodbank is also a five-time recipient of a four-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent evaluator of charities.

The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County not only provides food for the county, the organization also stresses educational growth for healthy living.

“They get the skills they need and the food literacy that helps them take that stuff and turn it into something that they want to eat,” Talkin said. “So you folks being here today are making that happen and I really, really acknowledge all of you.”

Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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