When people think of Santa Barbara, images of beautiful beaches, tall mountains, blue skies and year-round summers usually emerge. While these images do in fact represent Santa Barbara, I have come to see that despite its beauty, the beachside town is riddled with pockets of poverty. According to a recent report, roughly 39 percent of children in Santa Barbara city limits live below the poverty line. The national average is 22 percent.
Much of my work at the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County relates to our summer lunch program, Picnic in the Park. On day one I began working on my community needs assessment about the program, and ever since I have worked to research, coordinate and evaluate the program in its entirety. Once I completed my evaluation of the program last fall, I let out a sigh of relief that I would have a break from the program before planning for the following summer would begin. While I am passionate about summer food programs, they are not easy to coordinate and much of the job is putting out fires ("did the drivers remember to bring forks with the lunches?!"). However, after only a short time I found myself missing the program. There is not much that is more rewarding than working day-to-day to ensure that children are able to eat healthy lunches while spending time outdoors playing with friends during the summer months.
I was recently chatting with a community member who is not involved in the non-profit sector. She asked me what the Foodbank really does -- she hears about us a lot during the holidays but did not really know the extent of our work. As I was explaining our summer lunch program to her I realized that even when I am not actively coordinating the program, summer never truly ends. At the Foodbank we are constantly figuring out ways to improve all of our programs, to ensure that we are achieving our mission and serving the healthiest kid-friendly meals possible.
As I enjoy the warm weather of Santa Barbara's never-ending summer (even during the winter months), I am grateful for the opportunity to work on such a high-impact program as Picnic in the Park. I hope that the 39 percent of children struggling with hunger in Santa Barbara are able to escape from poverty and access food year-round, and I look forward to doing what I can to ensure the program is sustainable for years to come.
The Child Hunger Corps is a national service program designed to increase the capacity and capability of food banks to execute programs targeted towards the alleviation of child hunger. The objective of the program is to increase the number of nutritious meals served to children in need in local communities across the country. The Child Hunger Corps initiative is sponsored by the ConAgra Foods Foundation.Tags: Fighting Hunger in Action , Child Hunger , California , Foodbank of Santa Barbara County