Society Matters | Foodbank Celebrates at Table of Life Gala

On October 8, the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County hosted its always delightful annual Table of Life event, where supporters celebrated the Foodbank’s new Sharehouse and honored leadership donors the Patricia and Paul Bragg Foundation and La Centra-Summerlin Foundation. About 150 guests enjoyed a reception on the grounds of Steve and Cindy Leonard’s gorgeous ocean view estate followed by a gourmet al fresco dinner. 

During the program, CEO Erik Talkin explained how this past spring, inflation caused a big spike in demand for its services as low-income residents faced rising gas and food prices. 

The Foodbank’s innovative programs have grown, including one in partnership with the Ventura County foodbank to provide food and food literacy education to farmworkers. 

On Spanish language social media, the Foodbank has increased its nutrition education programming. The Foodbank started Saturday distributions countywide, which have seen large-scale attendance. Talkin reminded guests that its established programs — which provide healthy food through 200 partners — continues alongside the new initiatives.

Talkin then turned to the Sharehouse, its new South County warehouse and home for its food and education programs. He explained how the Foodbank has been operating out of an old tin fire station on Hollister Avenue, which has no loading docks and has inadequate space for the many millions of pounds of food needed to keep everyone in the county fed and healthy. Talkin likened the challenge his organization had to face during COVID, even with extra temporary warehouse space, to squeezing a gallon out of a measuring cup. 

Currently, the Foodbank turns away about 32,000 pounds of fresh produce each week because of lack of temperature-controlled storage space, which the new Sharehouse will have. Talkin estimates that the Sharehouse will enable the Foodbank to increase its weekly distribution of all food by 80,000 pounds.

Emcee John Palminteri paid tribute to the event honorees, the Patricia and Paul Bragg Foundation and La Centra-Summerlin Foundation, a family foundation composed of Suzanne, Reece, Michael and Lindsey Duca and attorney Michael Cooney, for their major leadership gifts to the Sharehouse Campaign. Patricia Bragg was recognized also for helping to brand the mantra that food is medicine.  

The Foodbank’s current 10,000 square foot South County warehouse can store only 15 percent of the food needed to serve our area, so food is trucked from the Santa Maria warehouse, creating added costs, emissions, and inefficiencies and leaving the South County vulnerable to an earthquake or other disaster that cuts off major roads.

The new facility, at 80 Coromar Drive in Goleta, includes a 57,000 square foot warehouse, which can store 750,000 pounds of food, and an attached 20,000 square foot office building, which will serve as a community meeting space for nutrition education programs.  

The $17 million price tag for the Sharehouse includes its $12.7 million acquisition cost and extensive retrofitting costs. The purchase was made with $3 million in Foodbank reserves and a loan.

The Foodbank is $2 million short of reaching the $17 million and seeks to raise this funding as part of a $6 million campaign currently underway that also includes funds for operating costs of running community programs and distributing food through the end of the year.  It has raised nearly $3.6 million toward this $6 million goal and seeks community support for the remainder.

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 2022, the Foodbank distributed more than 10 million pounds of healthy food, including 3.8 million pounds of fresh fruits and veggies, to nearly 164,000 unduplicated individuals.  The bulk of the food comes from various programs and about 1.2 million pounds is purchased by the Foodbank.  North County residents (including Santa Ynez Valley) receive 72 percent of the food and South County residents receive 28 percent. Countywide, 38 percent of those served are children, 14 percent are seniors.

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Major sponsors Val and Robert Montgomery | Credit: Gail Arnold
Immediate past board chair George Bean and Joy Bean | Credit: Gail Arnold
Venue hosts Cindy and Steve Leonard | Credit: Gail Arnold
Guests enjoy the reception. | Credit: Gail Arnold

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