Volunteers hand out food in July 2022 | Credit: Courtesy Foodbank of Santa Barbara County

Everything costs more these days, but for the most vulnerable across the nation, food stamp benefits were just cut back to pre-pandemic levels.

The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County now anticipates another surge in hunger. The nonprofit, which has backstopped nutritional needs across the county for more than three decades, is working to add food sources, and the Foodbank recently received a grant of $500,000 from the Balay Ko Foundation that requires community matches.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture had boosted benefits in 2020 to the highest tier for recipients, ranging from an additional $95 to $400 through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Now that the national emergency is declared over, in Santa Barbara County, more than 32,000 households are affected by the end of the pandemic’s emergency food benefits. 

A Foodbank event in Santa Maria in July 2022 | Credit: Courtesy Foodbank of Santa Barbara County

Without the extra benefit, some allotments will drop to $23 and $50 a month for seniors, veterans, families, and children at a time when daily expenses like gasoline and food are going up: Food prices have increased by 6-8 percent on the West Coast, and gasoline prices rose by more than 3 percent in the past year, according to the Consumer Price Index.

According to the Foodbank, the harsh winter caused delays in the harvest cycle, affecting workers and farmers. As well, the decreased support from CalFresh, the state program that administers the USDA funding, translated to an annual loss of $97.92 million in the county overall.

Foodbank is currently distributing 20 percent more food than it had before the pandemic hit in March 2020, and the nonprofit is also working to add 300,000 pounds of food over the next six months from the California Association of Food Banks’ one-time funding program.

Foodbank’s grant from the Balay Ko Foundation of Los Angeles runs through June 1. To help Foodbank meet Balay Ko’s match, donations of any size can be made to FoodbankSBC.org/Donate.


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