Santa Barbara Unified Feels Pressure to Feed the County

Food Services Stakeholders Beg to Keep Meal Contracts

The summertime lunch program at Bohnett Park serves delicious meals from the Santa Barbara Unified School District's mobile kitchen. | Credit: Paul Wellman

In a county where one in five children is considered food insecure, the Santa Barbara Unified School District (SBUSD) bit off more than it could chew on its mission to feed the county’s hungry. Now with a $1.3 million food services deficit, the district is still grappling with the best way to mitigate the financial and hunger crises — and stakeholders are protesting.

“As nonprofits, we certainly understand belt-tightening budget problems; we want to work cooperatively with SBUSD to help solve their problem and ours,” said Pat Keelean, CEO of the Community Action Commission of Santa Barbara County, which until recently contracted with the district’s food services program for its senior nutrition and Head Start childcare program.

“But they have abruptly pulled the rug out from underneath us,” Keelean continued. “They are preventing us from helping thousands of county children and seniors who depend on this one meal a day. We need time and consideration to work this out. The SBUSD Business Services office is giving neither one.” 

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