For the Santa Barbara Foodbank, filling kids’ bellies is not enough. Its mission has more to do with education and good nutrition. Now, for the first time, the Foodbank will offer the county’s youth a summer program whose benefits are manifold. For 10 weeks, Picnic in the Park will serve lunch at 11 different sites countywide to some 2,000 kids who depend on their schools for lunch during the school year.
“Eighty-four percent of kids who get free meals during the school year are not getting anything during the summer,” said executive director of the Foodbank Erik Talkin. “We knew it was important for us to do something.” Lunches, which will be served five days a week by teams made up entirely of volunteers, will be healthy, age-appropriate, and fresh.
“Our approach now is very much providing education as well as lunches,” Talkin explained. In addition to serving lunches, volunteers will engage kids (18 and under) in fun physical activities that aim to instill healthy habits and food literacy.
Talkin offered an example of a fun physical activity: “The blender on the bike.” It’s what it sounds like. Kids will pedal a stationary bicycle that has a blender attached to it; the faster you pedal, the faster it blends. “Exercise mixed with food is perfect,” Talkin said.
One focus of the Foodbank this summer will be on healthy food. “Having healthy food and getting it to those who really need it is most important,” said Talkin, who went on to say that while ingredients are sourced from all over, “some come from the county … and we’re trying to use local vendors.”
Volunteers are in charge of preparing and serving all lunches, five days a week, throughout Picnic in the Park’s 10-week run. “It’s going to be really fun for the volunteers,” said Talkin. “They’re not just giving lunches but also engaging in activities.” He went on to say that while the Foodbank has a lot of volunteers, it could always use more.
Starting as soon as school gets out, volunteers will bring Picnic in the Park to 11 different locations throughout the county. “We focus on sites that really are in need,” said Talkin. The 11 sites are in “the lowest income areas that do not feature other nonprofit distributions.” Carpinteria and Santa Maria will have four locations each, while Los Alamos, Goleta, and Isla Vista will each be the site of one. Sites include parks, schools, and community centers.
The Foodbank is also collaborating with the Community Action Commission, Lompoc Unified School District, and Santa Barbara School District. Counting the sites of all four organizations, kids can find lunch in 35 different locations this summer, from Guadalupe down to Carpinteria.
For a complete list of exact locations, times, and sponsors, visit bilingual Web site kidssummerlunch.org or call 585-5252 to find the summer lunch location nearest you. To learn about volunteering opportunities with the Santa Barbara Foodbank, go here.