The Community Environmental Council (CEC), Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, and the Santa Barbara Foundation will hold Building Our Resilient Food System: Cultivating Connections, a free community activation session to explore the vision, progress and next steps for the Santa Barbara County Food Action Plan. The open discussion will take place on Wednesday, October 25 from 6:00-8:00 p.m. at the Santa Barbara Public Library Faulkner Gallery.
At the gathering, which is being held one day after National Food Day, community members will learn about an array of exciting projects that work toward the end goals of the Santa Barbara County Food Action Plan. This community-driven, strategic plan assesses and provides recommendations for how we grow, distribute, consume, and dispose of food. Some of the existing efforts to implement it include:
- Activists in Cuyama and Lompoc working to make sure that residents have access to healthy food
- Higher education institutions like UCSB, Allan Hancock College and Santa Barbara City College addressing student hunger
- Health workers soon piloting prescriptions for fruits and vegetables
- Agencies working together to prevent food waste
- Ranchers and farmers using regenerative agriculture practices to improve their soils and potentially help reverse climate change
“After the Food Action Plan launched in May 2016, we immediately began taking steps to transition the plan from a blueprint to tangible community action,” stated Sharyn Main, Senior Director of Community Investments at the Santa Barbara Foundation. “This has included catalyzing a diverse set of outreach, education and collaboration events, directly engaging over 550 community members across multiple groups in moving toward the Food Action Plan goals.”
One such group is Santa Barbara City College (SBCC), which is “experiencing immediate improvements in quality of life as a result of our new food support, including a daily pantry for students and bi-weekly food share distributions for students, staff, and community,” stated Claudia Johnson, SBCC Dual Enrollment Director. “An added benefit is the community building through associated activities, like resource fairs and painting the food pantry.”
Foodbank of Santa Barbara County has also forged new avenues to improving community health through good nutrition by bringing Food Action Plan goals to fruition with Alma Cena Sana, a pilot community health program in Lompoc. Director of Community Impact, Lee Sherman, shared that “funding from the Santa Barbara Foundation helped us hire a Neighborhood Coordinator to do local outreach for Alma Cena Sana. This has resulted in a big increase in the number of families attending our weekly program, and let us conduct a food security survey to evaluate our effectiveness.” The Foodbank plans to open Alma Cena Sana community centers in three other neighborhoods identified as high need in Santa Barbara, Isla Vista and Santa Maria.
Beyond hearing from those already connected with the Food Action Plan, the community gathering is designed to gain deeper insight into other work being done in the region – from neighborhood gardens and backyard harvest collection to school lunches and corporate food waste practices. A portion of the evening will also be dedicated to a networking session, including refreshments, that will help connect the dots between groups that can support each other in their food efforts.
The Community Environmental Council and the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County spearheaded the creation of the Santa Barbara Food Action Plan in 2015-16, which involved over 1,200 hours of volunteer work from over 200 community members. The Santa Barbara Foundation served as a major partner in the launch, and has continued support through its LEAF (Landscapes, Ecosystems, Agriculture, Food Systems) Initiative, which provides grants for projects that create positive change in the local food system. Some of these projects will be highlighted at the event.
“When we talk about food, it’s easy to draw the connection to its impact on people, such as hunger. A less visible, but equally urgent concern is the direct link between our food system and environmental concerns like climate change,” said Sigrid Wright, CEO/Executive Director of the Community Environmental Council. “Gatherings like this help community members see this bigger picture, and provide them ways to take action in their daily lives.”
The event is being organized by Community Environmental Council, Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, and Santa Barbara Foundation, and co-sponsored by the Santa Barbara Food Alliance and Santa Barbara Permaculture Network. RSVP on the Facebook event, Building Our Resilient Food System: Cultivating Connections.