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Local News

Foodbank of Santa Barbara County Serves Up Free Summer Meals for Kids at Picnic in the Park

Summer program provides food and fun for children all over the county, with emphasis on North County locations this year

Families gather at the Santa Barbara Central Library for a Picnic in the Park event Thursday. The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County is helping provide free lunchtime meals to children there every Monday through Friday until Aug. 22. Click to view larger
Families gather at the Santa Barbara Central Library for a Picnic in the Park event Thursday. The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County is helping provide free lunchtime meals to children there every Monday through Friday until Aug. 22. (Julia Lee / Noozhawk photo)

The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County will be hosting thousands of children for free lunches during the nonprofit organization’s Picnic in the Park program this summer, and is working to raise $100,000 this month for its End Summer Hunger campaign.

The summer lunch program is specifically for children who rely on free school meals during the school year but are not able to receive food during the summer.

The Foodbank’s goal is to serve about 38,000 healthy lunches to 3,255 hungry children countywide this summer. Picnic in the Park held a kick-off party Thursday at the Santa Barbara Central Library with healthy meals, fun games and activities.

The development coordinators — Darlene Chavez in the North County and Leslie Velez on the South Coast — talked about the Foodbank’s mission and how it is addressing community needs.

Last year’s Picnic in the Park program saw more than 100 children in the North County, Velez said, with fewer taking advantage of the opportunity on the South Coast.

“It was really clear we should direct our resources to where the need was,” she said.

Chavez outlined some of the additions this year.

“The program is not just about feeding the kids,” she said. “We have some games and toys and stuff here so we want the kids to get nourishment, but we also want them to get exercise and activity for that social interaction.”

Foodbank executive director Erik Talkin said the overall atmosphere is important.

“In the past, some of the meal programs were just, ‘Here’s your bag of food, off you go’,” he said. “There was nothing else around it.

Children show off their hula-hooping during the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County Picnic in the Park event Thursday at the Santa Barbara Central Library. Click to view larger
Children show off their hula-hooping during the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County Picnic in the Park event Thursday at the Santa Barbara Central Library. (Julia Lee / Noozhawk photo)

“The Foodbank’s more interested in nutrition and food literacy. So we have gains, we have some nutrition education that comes out, and then we also involve a lot of local volunteers in terms of serving the food. It’s kind of grown a way from just transaction and giving a bagged lunch, doing something that’s much more effective for kids.”

Talkin explained the funding requirement behind the program.

“It’s an expensive program and we get a little bit of rebate from the state for doing it, but it doesn’t cover the costs of the running the program,” he said. “So every year we have to have a campaign where we find ways to raise $100,000 to be able to serve all the kids.”

Talkin said the picnics are held at places and parks that already are popular locations for children. The opportunity to have fun and also get their meals make it more of a “really good family experience for them,” he added.

“The Picnic in the Park program has grown enormously in the North County because there’s just a huge need for it there,” Talkin said. “And we partner with a lot of other agencies in the South County. So the library here is our flagship program in the South County.

“But I think increasingly the whole county is getting better served with sites.”

​The End Summer Hunger fundraising campaign had raised $60,000 of its goal as of Thursday.

The program is also supported by the volunteers who help out at Picnic in the Park events.

“This is Day One and we’ll come every Thursday,” said Patrick Noland, a program manager at Sonos. “It’ll be two to three volunteers from our company and our team.

“We work at Sonos downtown and our smaller 10-person team wanted to do a volunteer event. So we found this one here at the Foodbank for Picnic in the Park, and thought it’d be a great one to get involved with. We wanted to give back to the local community and help out a little bit.”

Picnic in the Park Schedule for Summer 2017

North County, June 19 to Aug. 4:

» Rice Park, 700 E. Sunset Ave. in Santa Maria. Lunch served from 11 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday.

» Minami Park, 600 W. Enos Drive in Santa Maria. Lunch served from 11:10 a..m. to 12:10 p.m. Monday through Friday.

» Veterans’ Memorial Community Center, 313 W. Tunnell St. in Santa Maria. Lunch served from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

» Grogan Park, 1155 W. Rancho Verdes St. in Santa Maria. Lunch served from noon to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday.

» Russell Park, 1000 W. Church St. in Santa Maria. Lunch served from 12:10 to 1:10 p.m. Monday through Friday.

» Los Adobes de Maria I, 1026 W. Boone St. in Santa Maria. Lunch served from 11:40 a.m. to 12:40 p.m. Monday through Friday.

» Mariposa Townhomes, 290 Parkview S. in South Orcutt. Lunch served from 12:15 to 1:15 p.m. Monday through Friday.

» Guadalupe Ranch Acres, 1056 Escalante St. in Guadalupe. Lunch served from 12:40 to 1:40 p.m. Monday through Friday.

» Riverview Apartments, 220 Calle Cesar E. Chavez in Guadalupe. Lunch served from 1 to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Los Alamos, June 26 to July 28:

» Los Alamos County Park, 500 Drum Canyon Road. Lunch served from 11:20 a.m. to 12:20 p.m. Monday through Friday.

South County, through Aug. 22:

» Santa Barbara Central Library, 40 E. Anapamu St. in Santa Barbara. Lunch served from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Click here for a directory of all the free summer meal options in Santa Barbara County.

Noozhawk intern Julia Lee can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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