Foodbank is delivering meals made by local chefs.

Foodbank is delivering meals made by local chefs. (Jacqueline Pilar)

The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County is piloting a new program designed to provide prepared meals to seniors, while helping local restaurants. The program, called Chef’s Kitchen, was launched with a trial distribution this week in which the Foodbank delivered 1,000 meals from chefs at Acme Hospitality.

Meals offered included pork shoulder enchiladas rojas and chicken posole verde.

While the goal of the program is to deliver prepared meals to seniors, in the pilot run, meals were provided to community members at the Foodbank’s SAFE Food Net drive-thru distributions at two Santa Barbara-area United Boys & Girls Clubs and the Salvation Army as a first test of the Foodbank’s operational logistics.

Delivering prepared food is new for the Foodbank and requires specialized food-handling expertise.

“The beauty of a program like this is that everyone wins. Yes, food insecure seniors get gourmet meals. And yes, restaurants and chefs have a new avenue to help keep their businesses going,” said Erik Talkin, Foodbank CEO.

“On top of that, community members who contribute to the program know that funds they donate are helping many people at once: those without enough to eat at home, and also beloved local businesses and their employees as well,” he said.

Chef’s Kitchen, which was initially developed by Foodbank board members in collaboration with Foodbank leadership, is partnering initially with Acme Hospitality, known for its flagship restaurants The Lark and Loquita, along with Tyger Tyger and Paradise Café.

“The Acme Hospitality group is delighted to work with the Foodbank to provide delicious meals, under leadership from our creative chefs Jason Paluska from The Lark and chef Nik Ramirez of Loquita, using local ingredients when possible, to seniors quarantined at home,” said Sherry Villanueva, Acme managing partner and owner.

“It’s a true win-win: we’re keeping our team at work, and getting healthy food to those deeply affected by the Covid-19 crisis,” she said.

“Being able to deliver homemade meals by esteemed local chefs to seniors in need takes our service to the next level during this crisis,” said Lacey Baldiviez, nutritional biologist and the Foodbank’s director of community education and programs.

“The Chef’s Kitchen program also allows the Foodbank to contribute to economic stability by supporting local restaurants who want to keep their employees on the job and contribute to the good of the community,” Baldiviez said.