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Foodbank Opens Lunch Program for Children in Wake of Thomas Fire

As part of a comprehensive hunger relief response to ensure nutritious food is available to those affected by the Thomas Fire, the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County is launching a healthy lunch program for local children.

The program is designed to make certain area youngsters have good nutrition through the end of the year even without the school meal programs on which they rely.

The Foodbank will provide single-serving healthy lunches to anyone who needs them from Wednesday, Dec. 20, through Friday, Dec. 22, at Franklin Neighborhood Community Center, and the Foodbank warehouse and downtown offices.

Lunches will be available to members of the community on a first-come, first-served basis during the following food distribution times:

Franklin Neighborhood Center, 12:30-2 p.m. at 1136 E. Montecito St.

Foodbank warehouse, 1-3 p.m., 4554 Hollister Ave., next to Page Youth Center.

Foodbank Offices, noon-2 p.m., 1525 State St., next to Cantwell’s.

Everyone — no age limit — is welcome to receive lunch. No paperwork/documentation is needed and no registration will be required.

The Foodbank will provide lunches in collaboration with hot lunch/Mobile Café programs established by the Santa Barbara Unified School District, ensuring local students and their families can receive healthy meals in as many high-need neighborhoods on as many days as possible during the holiday break.

Each lunch will include protein, whole grain, fresh fruit, drinking water, and more to help the community stay healthy in the face of multiple factors that threaten food security as a result of the Thomas Fire, the Food Bank said.

These unexpected challenges include school breakfast and lunch programs stopping a week and a half early this year when school districts shut down due to poor air quality, sudden and precipitous loss of income for hourly workers due to business closures and lost work, nonprofit food distribution program closures, and further ripple effects of the fire.

Lunches also will be provided Wednesday through Friday this week to residents at three People’s Self-Help Housing sites in Carpinteria to serve those with increased need for healthy lunches in Santa Barbara County’s southernmost city, where 60 percent of children qualify for free school lunch programs.

The Foodbank is requesting community support to operate this emergency lunch program for children affected by the Thomas Fire. Those wishing to contribute may visit foodbanksbc.org, click “Donate” for Thomas Fire Hunger Relief.

As the Thomas Fire unfolds, the Foodbank aims to ensure families, children, veterans, seniors and all people facing hunger in the county have access to healthy food in the neighborhoods where they live.

As part of the Foodbank’s continuing emergency food distribution program, community members can pick up bags of fresh produce, nutritious shelf-stable groceries and protein items at the following locations:

Foodbank warehouse, 1-3 p.m., 4554 Hollister Ave.

Foodbank Offices, noon-2 p.m., 1525 State St., next to Cantwell’s.

Franklin Neighborhood Center, 12:30-2 p.m., 1136 E. Montecito St.

Westside Boys & Girls Club, noon-2 p.m., 602 W. Anapamu St.

Saint Joseph Church, noon-2 p.m., 1500 Linden Ave, Carpinteria.

Two food distributions open to the public will take place in the Isla Vista area on Thursday, Dec. 21. Community members may receive food at these locations:

Isla Vista Youth Projects, 3:30-5:30 p.m. at 970 Embarcadero del Mar.

Catholic Charities, 3 p.m. at St. Mark’s Parish, 6550 Picasso Road.

Children and families are facing increased hunger as a result of the Thomas Fire. One significant factor is that local students missed nearly 200,000 meals they normally would have received at school because districtwide closures through the end of the year mean the breakfast and lunch programs they rely on for daily nutrition will not be operating.

South County public schools enroll 22,617 students, 10,246 of whom qualify for free/reduced price breakfast and lunches. Those students going without breakfast and lunch constitutes 20,492 missed meals every day

Santa Barbara Unified provides free breakfast for all enrolled students, which brings the potential total of daily meals being missed to 28,439.

Over the seven days of school closures, children in Santa Barbara’s south county missed up to 199,073 meals as a result of the Thomas Fire.

Due to the Thomas Fire, local schools were closed for seven days before the holiday break. Students will not have access to school breakfasts and lunches during the remainder of the year because the fire-related closures run into the winter recess.

Volunteers who want to help this week may sign up at http://ow.ly/LDxq30hgfJq.

The Foodbank is the only distributor of USDA food in Santa Barbara County, the primary provider of food in case of disaster within the county, and the fiscal sponsor of Santa Barbara County VOAD.

For more information about Food Bank of Santa Barbara County, visit www.foodbanksbc.org.

— Judith Smith-Meyer for Foodbank.


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