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County Foodbank Stays on Track Despite Setbacks

The economy and the Jesusita Fire have proven challenging, but the agency has continued its distribution program

[Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article contained incorrect information. The story has been corrected below.]

The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, a mainstay of the community’s social services network, is keeping up its programs despite a couple of setbacks.

The uncertain economy, coupled with the Jesusita Fire, presented some obstacles, but they did not prove insurmountable, Foodbank representative Diane Durst said.

Durst is the director of major and institutional giving, and she said she was to report that the Foodbank is continuing its distribution program for the county’s neediest people. “Right now, we’re holding our own,” she said. “It’s a balancing act.”

The Foodbank collects and distributes food to more than 200 agencies throughout the county that assist low-income families, seniors and children. A combination of grants and donations from businesses and individuals helps keep the Foodbank operating, Durst said. “The community of Santa Barbara rises up and supports us,” she said.

Among a number of corporate donors are Wells Fargo Bank and Ralphs grocery chain. One combined charitable-business gift was a brightly painted refrigerated truck from Ford Motor Co. and the Newman Foundation, taking perishable goods to distribution centers. 

“The Foodbank distributes food to 220 faith- and nonfaith-based organizations throughout the county,” Durst said. The organizations then assume the task of distributing the food directly to the needy. “We have the responsibility of helping 135,000 people throughout the community,” Durst said.

Large businesses and civic groups aren’t the only donors to the cause, she said. “Individuals write big checks and they write little checks. Or someone will bring us something like 15 cans of tuna, or 20 pounds of lemons or avocados, or walnuts off the trees on their farm.”

Among areas of Foodbank assistance are disaster relief, the Brown Bag program for seniors, a “produce initiative” to get more fresh vegetables and fruits into the community, and feeding kids. The organization, in its most recent report, estimated that 45 percent of the people it helps are children.

The Foodbank operates on an annual budget of a little more than $2 million, said Kerry Main Aller, development and public relations manager. The remainder of the funding comes from in-kind food donations, Aller said. “We are very proud that 96.5 percent of every dollar we receive goes back out into the many communities through our 220 member agencies.”

The Foodbank maintains two headquarters. One is in Santa Barbara, at 4554 Hollister Ave., and the other is in Santa Maria, at 490 W. Foster Road.

The Foodbank is assisted in its fundraising efforts by givezooks!, with offices in Santa Barbara County.

— Margo Kline is a Noozhawk contributor.

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