Community Partnership Rescues Excess Food to Feed Santa Barbara County Residents
Source: Community Environmental Council
Farm products contribute nearly $3 billion to Santa Barbara County’s economy every year, making it one of the most productive agricultural counties in the state. Yet, up to 20% of county residents don’t have sufficient access to affordable, fresh food. A new partnership aims to change that.
The partnership between Veggie Rescue, Santa Ynez Valley (SYV) Community Kitchen at St. Mark's, and Community Environmental Council’s Santa Barbara County (SBC) Food Rescue project was launched in 2021 to help reduce carbon-emitting food waste, while at the same time providing nutritious meals prepared with locally grown produce to residents who need it most. It is estimated that 40% of food produced in the US is never eaten. Instead, it is lost somewhere along the food chain and sent to the landfill, where it decomposes and produces methane – a greenhouse gas that is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide. At the same time, nearly 50% of low-income households in Santa Barbara County face food insecurity. This project addresses both of these issues.
Since this partnership began, over 1,500 residents have received meals. In 2021, the project received a Food Waste Prevention and Rescue grant from the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) as a part of California Climate Investments.
“Our partnership on the CalRecycle grant with Veggie Rescue and Santa Ynez Valley Community Kitchen is an exciting example of what community collaboration can produce,” said Siena Hooper, Community Environmental Council (CEC)’s SBC Food Rescue Coordinator. “I am proud of CEC’s history of identifying needs in the community, convening the right partners, and establishing initiatives like this where we help provide resources and build capacity for our partners to continue their important work of recovering excess food and feeding the community.”
To date the CalRecycle grant has funded Veggie Rescue’s 18’ refrigerated truck, refrigeration at SYV Community Kitchen, and food rescue supplies for both partners – investments that have helped increase Veggie Rescue and SYV Community Kitchen’s capacity for food recovery.The grant also supported Community Environmental Council's SBC Food Rescue project, which facilitates collaboration to scale up food recovery with partners including Veggie Rescue and SYV Community Kitchen.
Veggie Rescue and SYV Community Kitchen depend largely on volunteer participation and donations to serve the community. Veggie Rescue’s volunteers, for example, transport surplus food from farms and businesses across the county and redistribute it to nonprofit food distribution and meal programs, at no cost to either donor or recipient. Their program relies on support from the communities they serve.
Veggie Rescue’s 18-foot refrigerated truck, funded by the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle)’s Food Waste Prevention and Rescue grant as a part of California Climate Investments. (Photo credit: Veggie Rescue)
“I don’t think there is anything more powerful to create lasting change and innovation than collaboration,” said Diana O’Connell, Veggie Rescue’s Executive Director. A shining example of the impact of this collaboration comes from late 2021 when Veggie Rescue transported 2,000 pounds of rescued winter squash to the SYV Community Kitchen, where volunteers processed the squash into nutritious food. “By preparing and packaging the rescued squash, it was able to be delivered to nonprofits feeding people living without access to a kitchen, and to families not likely to prepare this meal themselves,” explained O’Connell.
The three partner organizations intend to build on this success with similar coordinated efforts through 2022 and beyond. Last month, for example, Veggie Rescue picked up a pallet of kale from the SBC Food Bank and delivered 24 cases to the Community Kitchen. Prior to this partnership, that fresh produce would have gone to waste.
“Eight of our volunteers worked to wash, destem, blanch and freeze the kale,” said Amy Derryberry, Director of the SYV Community Kitchen. The kitchen plans to use the kale to make large batches of soup that Veggie Rescue will then transport to food programs throughout the County. “The whole concept of the Community Kitchen is to collaborate with local organizations and individuals in the food space who want to make a difference and need a Community Kitchen to accomplish this,” said Derryberry.
Randall Day, Rector of St. Mark’s, helped spearhead the SYV Community Kitchen. “Our partnership with Veggie Rescue is an anchor, and critical to the whole range of programs we offer the community,” said Day. “Together, we view the food rescue collaboration as an umbrella that gathers our commitments and actions and joins them with an even broader range of work that CEC undertakes locally, regionally, and nationally. Collaboration, connection, relationship, and partnership are nothing new, but their importance has never been more clear.”
About SBC Food Rescue
CEC’s Santa Barbara County Food Rescue is a collaborative food recovery program for Santa Barbara County that is funded with support from private, public, and nonprofit sectors. SBC Food Rescue coordinates the donation of excess high-quality food to registered nonprofit organizations that serve community members. The program connects local restaurants, hotels, grocery stores and schools to organizations that serve Santa Barbara County residents in need, rescuing high-quality surplus food that would otherwise go to the landfill. Learn more: https://cecsb.org/initiatives/food/sbc-food-rescue
About Veggie Rescue:
Founded in 2011, Veggie Rescue collects fresh fruits, vegetables and prepared food from local farms, farmers markets, backyards, and businesses, then delivers this food directly to nonprofit organizations feeding community members in need. Partnering with 50+ farms and businesses to rescue food that would otherwise go to waste, Veggie Rescue then delivers that food to 65+ food pantries, shelters, senior centers, home delivery and youth programs who are feeding those living with food insecurity, throughout Santa Barbara County. Veggie Rescue’s program addresses food insecurity, reduces food waste and greenhouse gas emissions, and provides access to nutrient dense produce for those in our county most in need. Learn more: https://www.veggierescue.org
About Santa Ynez Valley Community Kitchen at St. Mark’s
The SYV Community Kitchen at St. Mark’s is a culinary co-working space open to collaborative projects with community-based organizations. The Kitchen serves the Santa Ynez Valley as a hub for a wide range of programs addressing both immediate and structural food insecurity needs and providing economic opportunity for local low-income families, including as: a training and teaching venue, a low to no-cost commercial kitchen space, and a recovery kitchen to preserve and repackage gleaned and rescued foods for the community. The overarching purpose of SYV Community Kitchen is both to feed and to build the community. So all the ways people come together, form friendships, and create are part of the purpose. Learn more: https://smitv.info/SYVCK .
About the Community Environmental Council (CEC):
CEC advances rapid and equitable solutions to the climate crisis – including ambitious zero carbon goals, drawdown of excess carbon, and protection against the impacts of climate change. CEC was recognized as a 2020 California Nonprofit of the Year and a City of Santa Barbara Climate Hero. CEO Sigrid Wright was named 2022 Congressional Woman of the Year. CEC has worked since 1970 to incubate and innovate real life environmental solutions that directly affect the California Central Coast. Our programs lead to clean vehicles, solar energy, resilient food systems and reduction of single-use plastic. Learn more about why CEC is one of only five nonprofits in Santa Barbara County to have the highest possible ratings on Charity Navigator and Guidestar at CECSB.org/impact. Find CEC on the web at CECSB.org and on Facebook.com/CECSB, Instagram.com/CEC_SB, Twitter.com/CECSB, and LinkedIn.com/CECSB.