Santa Barbara Middle School Hosts “Hunger Banquet”

More than 200 people filled the lawn at SBMS to share soup, break bread, and hear speakers tell stories of lives far different than those enjoyed by students and their families. The event was a fundraiser, but also a consciousness-raiser, exposing students to the realities of hunger, some of it right on the streets of Santa Barbara.

Janice lost a successful business and ended up living in her car for two years. The Santa Barbara native said she was close to suicidal until she chose to “not let fear take hold.” Through the local New Beginnings Safe Parking initiative and her own hard work, Janice is now housed and looking forward to starting her new full-time job in January.

Heather told the students about how her positive, active, PTA-mom life was ruined by divorce and then alcohol problems and illness. “I’m a survivor of many things,” she said. “But I have my own story. You can’t lump all homeless people together; each story is different.” Heather earned cheers when she spoke of her ongoing recovery and newly-found stable housing.

Those two local stories were put in context by remarks from head of school Brian McWilliams. “As we gather together here, more than one billion people around the world will go to bed hungry tonight,” he said. “We can’t feel guilty about that. The enemy of guilt is action and education. You can seize this opportunity to make a difference.”

The event was run entirely by the student-led Community Action Club. The speakers particularly praised the young activists. “I give you guys a lot of credit for putting yourselves out there like this,” said Heather. “I’m blown away by what these kids have done,” added Janice.

The students in the club will be using funds raised from the event to create a new and improved children’s playroom at the Transition House family shelter, as well as help sponsor college tuition for a local, well-deserving teen through the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara.

Entertainment during the meal, which was a small bowl of soup, a piece of day old bread (thanks to local Our Daily Bread bakery and restaurant), and a tangerine—and no seconds—was provided by local guitarist Billy Taylor, familiar to many from his musical work at the Farmer’s Market.

For more information on the SBMS Community Action Club, visit sbms.org.

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