The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County needs about 3,000 turkeys by Monday. So far, it has only received about 200, which is less than 7 percent of its goal.

“We are looking at a paltry sum of the poultry that we need,” said Paul Wilkins, the new director of operations. “We are really feeling the crunch right now. We are hugely dependent on the community helping us out.” 

An increased demand from the food bank’s partner agencies and a decrease in the supply of poultry, combined with the time it takes to distribute the needed turkeys, have contributed to the organization having to ramp up its call for help during the annual turkey drive, Wilkins said.

Frozen turkeys from 14 to 16 pounds are needed.

Tough weather conditions this year have also increased the price of poultry and decreased the number of available turkeys and chickens, he said.

“The price is up due to some horrible weather conditions experienced by farmers in the northern San Joaquin Valley," Wilkins said, adding flocks were damaged by the high-heat conditions. "There has been a scarcity and a price increase because of that.” 

The food bank is also accepting donations of frozen chickens, as well as dry brown and turkey gravy mixes, canned vegetable and chicken broth, dry stuffing mixes, canned fruits and vegetables and other nonperishable food items.

The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County works with about 300 partner agencies to fight hunger locally. The organization, which is largely based in Santa Maria with a smaller facility in Santa Barbara, either supplements the needs of other programs or is the sole source for food and other resources.

But during the weeks leading up to the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, the food bank also works to support more agencies, while servicing its year-round partners.

For those that can’t make it to the grocery store to pick up a frozen turkey, the food bank is also holding a virtual food drive. Monetary donations can be made at www.foodbanksbc.org.

“This time of year we get a lot of requests for rice and beans, which are staple items that we typically don’t get donated as much. We have to go out and buy those so that gives us the funds we need,” Wilkins said.

Financial gifts also help the food bank pay its considerable operating expenses.

“We are receiving and distributing 10 million pounds. We are not Amazon; we don’t have robots to pick and pull orders. Financial contributions are a real need for us,” he said.

Logan B. Anderson covers city government in Santa Maria for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter: @LoganBAnderson.

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