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Community Environmental Council Receives Food Rescue Grant and Partners with SBCC and Allan Hancock College to Feed Hungry Students

The Community Environmental Council (CEC) received $116,000 from Cal Recycle to feed hungry students at Santa Barbara City College (SBCC) and Allan Hancock College as part of an innovative food rescue program that will also help our region reduce waste and fight climate change. The CEC coordinates SBC Food Rescue  a collaborative food recovery network for Santa Barbara County with support from private, public, and nonprofit sectors. CEC’s partnership with the two community colleges in Santa Barbara will create more opportunities for the Foodbank and businesses with excess food, such as supermarkets, hotels, restaurants, and caterers, to safely provide donations to students who are struggling with food insecurity. It will also keep an estimated 84,000 pounds of food out of the landfill. 

“This grant provides a great collaborative opportunity to redirect excess food to those in need,” says Sigrid Wright, CEO/Executive Director for the CEC. “Keeping edible food out of the landfill while increasing access to sufficient nutritious food is a key component of our efforts to build a sustainable, healthy food system.” The grant funds will help extend the reach of the SBC Food Rescue program, which already has participation from a number of local organizations and businesses. 

“This funding will allow us to significantly expand our campus programs that address food insecurity,” says Rachel Johnson, Director of Grants for the SBCC Foundation. “The SBCC Food Pantry currently serves over 3,500 students per semester with food from the Santa Barbara Food Bank and our campus permaculture gardens. This grant will equip us to give away prepared foods safely as well, meaning students get fed and that food doesn’t end up in the garbage. ” Approximately $40,000 in funding will allow SBCC to upgrade its food pantry with reinforced flooring to accommodate new refrigerators, additional storage racks, and new A/C units. The college will also expand the program to its West Campus, and purchase a microwave and water dispensers, all of which will increase the capacity to accept prepared food for distribution at the pantry, and extend the shelf-life of that food once received. 

At Allan Hancock College, the Culinary Arts & Management Program will focus on rescuing food from local restaurants in areas where municipal organic waste collection and recycling are not available, by forming partnerships and providing equipment and training. “Allan Hancock College culinary students will take food from both local restaurants and the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County and then prepare and distribute it to students in need,” said Allan Hancock College Director of Grants Dr. LeeAnne McNulty. “The college will use the grant funds for food packaging equipment, a trailer and insulated bags for transportation, thermometers to ensure food safety, promotion and training materials, student worker funding, and compostable service items. We are very excited to help our students with food insecurities through these new tools.”  

California’s Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) has awarded $11 million in grants to 36 local projects throughout the state that prevent waste, fight climate change, and distribute good food to Californians who need it. When food is sent to the landfill, it decomposes and produces methane – a greenhouse gas that is far more potent than carbon dioxide. The purpose of CalRecycle’s Food Waste Prevention and Rescue Grant Program is to lower overall greenhouse gas emissions by establishing new or expanding existing food waste prevention projects. 

“Edible food disposal is a humanitarian tragedy and a tremendous waste of California’s resources,” CalRecycle Director Scott Smithline said. “These local food waste prevention and rescue projects make our communities healthier and help California combat climate change.” 

In Santa Barbara County, 50% of low-income households deal with food insecurity, and community college students are among those who lack access to adequate, healthy food. According to the results of the California Community Colleges #RealCollege Survey  released in March 2019, half of the nearly 40,000 California community college students who responded were food insecure in the prior 30 days. The grant funding for SBC Food Rescue and the CEC’s partnership with SBCC and Allan Hancock College will provide food to local students in need, divert waste from the landfill, and reduce greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change – a win-win-win for our community.

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