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Santa Barbara Foodbank Counting on Community Support For New Warehouse

Local nonprofit is asking for land donation to build a larger Santa Barbara storage facility since the current warehouse can't be expanded

The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County is running out of warehouse space at its Santa Barbara location and wants a new facility.
The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County is running out of warehouse space at its Santa Barbara location and wants a new facility.  (Foodbank of Santa Barbara County photo)

The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County is looking for a larger Santa Barbara home and CEO Erik Talkin hopes a Good Samaritan will heed the nonprofit’s call.

The organization serving as the county’s primary distributor of food to those in need has outgrown its warehouse at 4554 Hollister Ave. and is seeking a land donation to house a bigger, more efficient storage and distribution warehouse.

Officials would love to get a deal similar to what they’ve had the past 25 years, paying Santa Barbara County $1 a year to use the Santa Barbara warehouse facility, a converted fire station.

Talkin said the nonprofit felt a sense of urgency recently when county officials told the Foodbank it couldn’t expand or manipulate the site due to zoning restrictions and the Eastern Goleta Valley Community Plan, which designated the site as a future park.

Since the county doesn’t have other property available, the Foodbank put out a call for help Monday.

“We’ve had to kind of turn away an increasing amount of food over the past few years,” Talkin told Noozhawk.

“We really need more capacity within the South County. It wouldn’t do just to expand up north. We really need more physical resources here.”

The Foodbank works with more than 300 nonprofits and programs to distribute some 9.7 million pounds of food annually, stored either in its 21,000-square-foot Santa Maria facility or in Santa Barbara — a building half the size and without a loading dock.

One in four county residents is fed by the Foodbank, which serves more than 146,000 unduplicated people each year. Nearly 35 percent of them are children.

As it stands now, Talkin said the lack of space means the Foodbank turns down 2.2 million pounds of food valued at about $4.5 million every year — equivalent to 1.8 million meals that could feed 20,000 more families annually.

Transporting most food out of Santa Maria reduces food shelf life and adds about 31,200 miles, $175,000 in staff time and $19,000 in fuel costs, Talkin said.

The Foodbank would also be the point agency to feed county residents should a major disaster occur.

“We’ve looked around extensively,” Talkin said.

The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County is looking for donated land to build a larger facility. Click to view larger
The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County is looking for donated land to build a larger facility.  (Foodbank of Santa Barbara County photo)

“We’re open to what’s out there. Ideally we’d be able to own the property. The Foodbank operates on the principle that we need to make sure people are fed each day. It’s a really good investment.”

Preferably, a new site would be at least 2 acres of land with or without a structure and zoned for industrial or commercial use in the Santa Barbara South Coast area, ideally near downtown Santa Barbara, the organization said. 

The Foodbank is also hoping for adequate access for box trucks and occasional semi trucks, good access to Highway 101 and parking for at least 30 vehicles.

As for square footage, best-case scenario would include a minimum of 20,000 square feet of warehouse, 3,000 square feet of cooler/freezer space, 4,500 square feet of office/training space and 19 feet in height.

Talkin said 8 percent of Foodbank donations come from individual locals and about 20 percent is rescued from grocery stores (food near its sell-by date), with the rest from state or national agencies such as the California Association of Foodbanks.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff 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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