Lucy and Herman Alvarado getting breakfast at Harding School
Paul Wellman

For all of our supposed wealth and tourist-serving glamour, Santa Barbara County is home to a staggering number of people living in poverty. At last count, more than 62,000 people — 14 percent of the population — were living below or near the federal poverty line, which for a family of four is defined as making less than $25,100 year.

One of the most concrete ways to grasp this reality is through studying our food networks, as finding the next meal is really where the rubber meets the road for those struggling to survive. In this week’s issue, we take a look at the various ways our community is tackling the issue, from the nonprofit sector to schools to federal food-stamp programs.

Reporter Blanca Garcia interviewed Santa Barbara Unified School District officials about their free breakfast and lunch programs, as well as the summer food-truck program, which kicks off next month. Executive Editor Nick Welsh spoke with county Foodbank director Eric Talkin, who spends much of his time educating people on how to eat better.

We also present a chart showing the rising number of people who rely on food stamps distributed through the state’s CalFresh program. This critical service is now under attack by Republicans in Congress, and Santa Barbara County stands to lose large amounts of funding.

  1. Children Go Hungry in Santa Barbara: Santa Barbara County has the highest child poverty rate in California.
  2. Turning Hunger into Health: Foodbank’s Eric Talkin reflects on a decade of work.


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