Congressmember Salud Carbajal (right) presented a ceremonial check for $1.5 million toward Foodbank's purchase of a new warehouse to Foodbank CEO Erik Talkin (left), Communications Manager Judith Smith-Meyer, and Chief Development Officer Alisse Harris. | Credit: Courtesy

The storms last month highlighted once again that Santa Barbara could easily be isolated by natural disasters, like a flooded-out or mud-and-rock-swamped Highway 101. The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County has been working for eight years to enlarge its storage capacity, to add what the Foodbank’s executive director Erik Talkin calls a layer of resilience and food security for the entire county. The nonprofit received a federal grant for $1.5 million, toward the $20 million cost of its new 57,000-square-foot Sharehouse warehouse, from the federal budget passed in December.

Congressmember Salud Carbajal was on hand Friday morning to present the big check to Talkin and a couple of staffers, praising the Foodbank for pulling together community support in providing food to families as well as being able to feed the South County during disasters. “It brings a proud, warm feeling to my heart,” Carbajal said. From his time as county supervisor, he recalled that having enough to eat is a serious issue in the region: “Santa Barbara County has the third highest poverty rate in California, and one in six children here faces food insecurity.”

Rep. Salud Carbajal and Foodbank CEO Erik Talkin discuss the possibilities of a 57,000-square-foot warehouse full of food. | Credit: Luke Hamann

The new warehouse is 10 times larger than the Foodbank’s current location on Hollister Avenue, and Talkin said it enabled them to rely less on the larger Santa Maria facility to store foods for South County. The lofty and spacious warehouse enables Foodbank to store as much as 80,000 pounds a week of fruits, vegetables, and grocery staples out of the sun and in coolers and freezers. Electrical hookups every dozen feet were already in place for a freezer that will occupy 6,000 square feet of floor space. Solar panels are also planned for the site, said Talkin.

Jordano’s will share part of the warehouse space with the Foodbank, which will move its food storage in by October. Already, the administrative staff has moved into the building next door, where they are planning a nutritional promotion center in what looks like a ballroom — Talkin noted they didn’t plan to rebuild if they didn’t have to — for the volunteers who teach in the Foodbank’s education program. The Foodbank, its staff, and thousands of volunteers distribute free groceries and fresh food at more than 50 locations around the county — “Sharing food, sharing education, and sharing hope,” Talkin said.

In addition to the Foodbank grant funding, Carbajal’s office has been busily keeping news outlets updated on money coming to Santa Barbara County from the omnibus spending bill passed by Congress on a bipartisan basis and signed by President Biden in December. The projects include:

•  $7 million to complete Highway 101 carpool lanes between Santa Barbara and Ventura
•  $3 million toward pollinator-friendly plantings to add habitat for monarch butterflies and other insects on Department of Transportation corridors, a national program that includes $10 million total for work within the National Wildlife Refuge System and research
•  $2 million to help fund a new Orcutt Branch Library
•  $1.5 million toward renovating Dwight Murphy Field, including Gwendolyn’s Playground
•  $1.38 million to stabilize Old San Marcos Road
•  $1.26 million to renovate Pioneer Park in Lompoc
•  $1 million to help construct a new OB/GYN residency-program clinic at Marian Regional Medical Center
•  $500,000 toward Santa Maria’s Japanese Community Center
•  $500,000 for an emergency pumping facility project at Lake Cachuma

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