With its innovative programs focused on healthy eating, Foodbank Santa Barbara County is not your ordinary foodbank. So it was only fitting that it did not throw the ordinary fundraiser either. Its Table of Life Gala, held at Jim and Stephanie Sokolove’s picturesque Montecito estate, was a lovely, refined, and fun garden party.
About 250 guests mingled in the late afternoon on the terraces and poolside before adjourning to a lawn for a tasty alfresco dinner. Master of Ceremonies Geoff Green, who heads the Santa Barbara City College (SBCC) Foundation, welcomed the guests and shared his enthusiasm for this critically important nonprofit, noting that one in four residents in our county receives assistance from the Foodbank. At SBCC, more than 15 percent of the student body is food insecure, and SBCC is one of the 300 partners that work with the Foodbank, helping to provide the sustenance students need.
Angel Martinez, the recently retired CEO of Deckers Brands and a mayoral candidate, pointed to the tremendous wealth and availability of food in this county alongside many people who either don’t get enough food or get the wrong kind of food. He declared that the community has an obligation to ensure that food insecurity here is a thing of the past.
The event’s honoree, Jeff Bridges, had a similar message. Bridges is the cofounder of the entertainment industry’s End Hunger Network, the national spokesperson for the No Kid Hungry Campaign, and an active supporter of the Foodbank. In a video presentation, Bridges related how “Santa Barbara is a microcosm of the United States; we have tremendous wealth here, and we have poverty here, and one of my dreams is to make Santa Barbara a no-kid-hungry county.” He explained how hunger affects children’s physical and mental health and their ability to learn. He lauded the Foodbank’s motto, “Hunger into Health,” stressing how hunger is a health issue.
Also making an appeal to guests was the inspirational 13-year-old Jacob Mansbach, who at age 8 started a youth triathlon team, which over the years has raised more than $80,000 for the Foodbank. After these emotional appeals and the paddle raise, the Doublewide Kings began the dance tunes and the party continued in this idyllic garden setting.
The event raised funds for food and nutrition education programs for youth from early childhood through the teen years, programs that go beyond providing sustenance. These programs seek to instill a taste for fresh produce and the ability to prepare nutritious foods on a budget to prevent obesity, diabetes, cancer, and other health conditions. The Healthy School Pantry program provides nutrition and health education, cooking demos, and physical activities for families. The Kid’s Farmers Market program provides fresh produce, classes, and simple recipes for elementary students. Picnic in the Park offers nutritious lunches and physical activities during the summer for low-income youth. These are but a few of the Foodbank’s many programs moving people from “Hunger to Health.”
For more information about the Foodbank or to make a donation, go to foodbanksbc.org.
By Gail Arnold