Bags of food assembled at the Santa Barbara Foodbank.
Bags of food assembled at the Santa Barbara Foodbank. Officials there say they could use more volunteers to handle the increase in demand for food. (John Palminteri / Noozhawk photo)

With many of its regular volunteers falling into the age group recommended to self-isolate at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the demand for food expected to increase, the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County is looking for reinforcements and donations.

The Foodbank serves as the primary food resource during an emergency in Santa Barbara County. It operates as the lead organization of Volunteer Organizations Assisting in Disaster in Santa Barbara County.

Foodbank volunteers pack food at the organization’s warehouses, staff drive-thru and walk-up food distribution locations, and deliver bags of groceries to homes of people who cannot come out for any reason.

With Gov. Gavin Newsom calling for people age 65 and older to stay at home in order to protect themselves from catching the coronavirus, and with an anticipated increased demand for food, additional volunteers at Foodbank are welcomed, said Judith Smith-Meyer, Marketing Communications Manager for the non-profit organization.

“Absolutely,” she said. “We expect need to increase exponentially and emergency distributions to open throughout the county on a rolling basis as needs become clearer.

“Also, many of our regular volunteers are seniors who are now restricted as to coming out of their homes. So the Foodbank welcomes anyone who wants to help.”

Volunteers are trained to follow social-distancing protocol of keeping six feet from others, always wear gloves, and follow safety precautions to minimize the risk of community transmission.

“We’re also creating video volunteer trainings so new volunteers can get ready from home,” said Smith-Meyer.

New volunteers should visit to sign up for a volunteer account and “Opt In” to receive emails and be the first to know when new opportunities come up.

Donations are always encouraged, and they can be made through the Foodbank website.

“Donations will be used to source and distribute healthy food,” said Smith-Meyer. “School closures, seniors under quarantine, job and income loss among those who work in bars, wineries, restaurants, theaters, tourism, the event industry, and more, mean that more and more county residents will be facing hunger, especially as safety measures continue over time.”

Volunteering at the Foodbank and picking up food distributions are considered essential services, and are allowed during the statewide “shelter-at-home,” Smith-Meyer noted. 

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