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Monday, February 18 , 2019, 9:37 pm | Fair 50º


Foodbank Opens New ‘Healthy Community Pantry’ on Santa Barbara’s Westside

Located at Harding Elementary School, the facility will emphasize connecting clients to their communities

Residents from Santa Barbara’s Westside line up at the door of Harding Elementary School Tuesday for the grand opening of the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County’s Healthy Community Pantry.
Residents from Santa Barbara’s Westside line up at the door of Harding Elementary School Tuesday for the grand opening of the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County’s Healthy Community Pantry. (Sam Goldman / Noozhawk photo)

The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County opened a Healthy Community Pantry on Santa Barbara’s Westside Tuesday, with the goal of connecting Foodbank users to the greater health and nutrition community and providing food education.

The pantry at Harding Elementary School, 1625 Robbins St., had its grand opening from 3 to 5 p.m.

It had a soft opening in March, and will be operating the fourth Tuesday of each month.

“There’s more of an emphasis on connecting the community to resources, connecting the community to each other at our Healthy Community Pantry,” said Bethany Stetson, the Foodbank’s community programs manager, of the how the pantry differs from its fellow pantry programs.

In addition to food, the pantry offers gardening tips, health screenings, and food-literacy education. These activities are facilitated by a variety of the Foodbank’s community partners, which include the Santa Barbara Unified School District and Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics.

The Foodbank provided 9.7 million pounds of food throughout the county last year, said Stetson, more than half of which was fresh produce.

“We live in a really produce-rich area, so we really want to make produce available to our community,” she said. “That’s one of the reasons we have such a high emphasis on nutrition education.”

The Healthy Community Pantry is structured much like many of the Foodbank’s other programs, such as the Healthy School Pantry, which runs like a monthly health fair in 16 schools around the county, providing physical education, food preparation tips, and gardening instruction.

The William Sansum Diabetes Center was on hand for nutrition counseling, while certified enrollment counselors from Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics helped visitors apply for health insurance coverage.

The line at Harding was out the door, as Westside families learned about nutrition and health care and picked up applies, diapers, and grains.

Visitors also have the opportunity to join the Foodbank’s Nutrition Advocates Network, which trains participants in cooking and community engagement.

An estimated 75 families will come to the pantry each month, and leave with fresh produce and staples, according to the Foodbank.

According to a 2014 report by Feeding America, a nonprofit network of foodbanks across the country, Santa Barbara ranks 44th out the state’s 58 counties in terms of meeting its residents’ daily food needs.

Sixty-four percent of the households the Santa Barbara County Foodbank serves have incomes of less than $10,000 per year, according to data from the Foodbank and Feeding America.

The Foodbank has locations in Goleta, Isla Vista, Lompoc, and Santa Maria — the last of which receives the most assistance of all the county’s communities.

Noozhawk staff writer Sam Goldman 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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