CEO Erik Talkin (center) with SBCC students and event speakers Jazz Hill (L) and Ian Anzlowar (R) | Credit: Gail Arnold

Last Saturday, the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County’s annual Table of Life Gala dramatically put the spotlight on college hunger right in our county and raised $335,000 to support food distribution at area colleges. More than 200 guests gathered for the swanky soirée on the stunningly beautiful grounds of Boardmember Betsey von Summer Moller’s and John Moller’s Ennisbrook estate.  

During the reception, guests mingled on the spacious terraces and lawns before being seated for the al fresco dinner. Jeannine’s Bakery owner Alison Hardey, who was last year’s honoree, served as emcee, setting the tone with her warmth of spirit and passion for the Foodbank. The tasty family-style dinner was created by Rincon Catering owner Marc Borowitz and active Foodbank supporter and nutritionist Randi Miller and featured citrus poached salmon, lemon and rosemary chicken, and abundant sides.

After the dinner hour, CEO Erik Talkin introduced the subject of college hunger by noting that the struggles college kids face today are very different from those faced by the previous generation because college costs are at an all-time high while income and wealth of most American families has been declining.“Things have got to where hunger and homelessness can undermine a student’s ability to study.” Government programs providing cash assistance and food stamps (CalFresh) require participants work 20 to 30 hours per week, which prohibits many students from qualifying. The Foodbank is now supplying 700,000 pounds of  nutritious food to SBCC, UCSB, and Allan Hancock College a year.

In a powerful video, students who work or volunteer at the college distribution sites and are also recipients shared insights. One student posited that the stigma attached to accepting food prevents many students from coming to an Allan Hancock site, suggesting that while 200 students visit, perhaps 600 need assistance. Another related how a student confided that he hadn’t eaten in four days.

In a moving speech, SBCC student Ian Anzlowar shared how before learning about the food pantry, he would go to bed early because “when you are asleep, you can’t feel the hunger pains.” He conveyed his gratitude to donors: “College is hard, but thanks to you, finding something to eat is not.” Fellow student Jazz Hill thanked donors as well for the food she has been able to secure not only for herself, but for family members who are struggling too. “It’s a difficult thing to study and learn when you are living in stress and you are hungry. Hunger causes actual physical pain and can make you feel defeated  . . .  I have a deep appreciation for the Santa Barbara Foodbank, because it brought a secret into the light and gave me the opportunity to help my family.”

The event honored the Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara, a philanthropic group with more than 1,000 members known for its rigorous research and identification of critical community needs.  The nonprofit made a $95,000 grant to the Foodbank last year for a new refrigerated truck.

A recent Allan Hancock survey showed that about 50 percent of students experienced food insecurity in the past 30 days, which is in line with another recent survey of 86,000 university students that indicated 45 percent of students were food insecure in the previous 30 days.  All campus distribution sites served by the Foodbank have seen a tremendous increase in demand in the last year, including a 54 percent increase at SBCC. 

SBCC has a daily pantry and a monthly Food Share event, which are open to the public, but mostly serve students. UCSB has two pantries open 3-4 days/week  and a monthly pantry at Isla Vista School (co-hosted with Isla Vista Youth Projects), which UCSB students visit too. At Allan Hancock College, the Santa Maria campus has three Food Share events each month and a fourth at the Lompoc campus. UCSB students must self declare income eligibility on an annual basis.

The Foodbank  provides nourishment and education through 300+ distribution programs operated in house and at partner agencies. One in four people in the county receive Foodbank support — 191,000 people, 40 percent of whom are children. About one third of those served are in Santa Barbara, Goleta, and Isla Vista. Last year, the Foodbank distributed 10 million pounds of food–nearly half of which was fresh produce. 

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Venue hosts Betsey von Summer Moller (boardmember) and John Moller
Board Chair George Bean and Joy Bean
Women’s Fund Research Committee Members Michele Saltoun, Sabina White (co-chair), and Maureen Ellenberger (co-chair)
UCSB student Eric Nava and Dianna Vega
Carolyn and Philip Wyatt
Guests listen to the program.

Guests listen to the program.
CEO Erik Talkin (center) with SBCC students and event speakers Jazz Hill (L) and Ian Anzlowar (R)


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