Food banks in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties predict that the economic rebound will take years, not months for hungry Central Coast families.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, food banks have been working to meet a higher demand while also maintaining safe conditions to distribute the food.
In 2019, San Luis Obispo Food Bank distributed 3.4 million pounds of food and the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County served 9.7 million. In 2020, those numbers nearly doubled to 5.1 million and 19.4 million pounds of food respectively.
This does not count the meals given when the food banks partnered with community groups and schools.
"Just because we have a shot in our arm doesn’t make up for the fact that some people have been out of work for over a year," Operations Director for the San Luis Obispo Food Bank, Emily Hansen, said. “From the very beginning, we had to rethink how we did everything. So much of what we do and what are our agency partners do revolves around bringing the community together which was the exact opposite of what you were supposed to do during the pandemic."
Both counties offer multiple day schedules and locations, as well as drive options and socially distanced pick ups.
“We continue to operate at an elevated level, still seeing about twice the amount of food going out every month so demand is still high and we’re keeping at it," Paul Wilkins, the Operations Officer at the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, said.
“We were serving more clients but in addition to that, our existing clients needed more assistance and needed more food," Hansen said.
Both food banks have been collaborating with local farms and businesses to give out nutritious meals that align with nutrition policies.
“During the pandemic, rather, we’ve received close to 7 ½ million pounds of locally donated food, so that’s food coming in from donors within the county and its from our local agriculture sector, commercial retail sector, and from individual donors," Wilkins said.
Neither location requires proof of need.