The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, with offices in Santa Barbara and Santa Maria, delivered 11 million pounds of food to 102,000 individuals throughout the county in 2011. Foodbank’s mission is to provide nourishment to those in need by acquiring and distributing safe, nutritious foods via local agencies and providing education to solve hunger and nutrition problems in Santa Barbara County. They do this with donated food from many sources, both locally and statewide. Using surplus food that would otherwise go to waste from retail outlets and governmental agencies, they also find that Santa Barbara County farmers and ranchers are among the most generous contributors of fresh fruits and vegetables in the country.

This year the group is launching a new initiative to further its goals to eliminate hunger in our community. Grow Your Own Way/La Comida Crece en Casa aims to teach participants how to grow at least a portion of their own food, gives them the supplies and tools they need to succeed, and requires that they then give back to their community through volunteer activities to help even more people achieve at least partial food independence.

The program consists of four levels of assistance. Initially, 4,000 clients will be provided with organically harvested seeds of staple crops such as beans, peppers, tomatoes, and onions and educational materials (Spanish and English) to tutor them in basic growing techniques. At the next level, 800 clients will receive select seedlings of plants chosen for their ease of growth in small spaces and suited to the area climate. During level three, 200 clients will be given complete growing kits, including worm compost bins and containers and soil media tailored to their personal space requirements, however small. This will be coupled with four hours of instruction and the ability to tap into the expertise of Master Gardeners through Facebook and email. At the highest level, 30 participants, who have sufficient space to devote to vegetable gardens, will be encouraged to assemble a group of friends and neighbors in a cooperative effort to maximize the harvest from their gardens. For these advanced gardeners, there will also be a library of tools and quarterly support from the program directors.

The project manager will be Oscar Carmona, well-known as an educator, grower, and owner of Healing Grounds Nursery. The program will be administered by the Foodbank and individual participant’s progress monitored by the Foodbank’s Health Education and Evaluation Advisor.

If you would like to support this initiative and the Foodbank’s efforts to not only feed hungry neighbors but empower them to learn how to feed themselves (and their neighbors), check out the Grow Your Own Way Benefit Event. It will be held on Friday March 9, 5-9 p.m. at Trinity Episcopal Church, 1500 State Street. For your $20 donation, you will enjoy hors d’oeuvres from ingredients donated by area growers and producers prepared by three special chefs and an introduction to the program by Erik Talkin, CEO of Foodbank of Santa Barbara County and Oscar Carmona. Rachel Kaplan (author of Urban Homesteading: Heirloom Skills for Sustainable Living) will be the keynote speaker. Other activities include a silent auction and raffle with all proceeds to benefit the Foodbank. For more information, contact the event coordinator, Carla Rosin, at (805) 816-8188 or


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