With local field trips on hold during the pandemic, Los Olivos-based nonprofit NatureTrack has found a way to bring nature-based experiences to children, while helping distribute food to families in need.

NatureTrack founder Sue Eisaguirre said she reached out to Lompoc Unified School District in November, volunteering to deliver meals to local families unable to access food distribution sites due to transportation challenges.

According to Eisaguirre, it was a perfect opportunity to get NatureTrack’s message into the hands of Lompoc youths while providing their families with necessary food staples.

Eisaguirre referred to her delivery rounds, made from Dec. 2 to 18 as, “Nutrition with a side of nature.”

Along with the meals, NatureTrack provided children a "Nature Notes" journal and a new card each week that featured a nature-based educational activity.

Since its founding in 2010, NatureTrack has provided 25,000 outdoor experiences for K-12 schoolchildren at no cost.

During the pandemic, NatureTrack pivoted and instituted virtual field trips and online resources to supplement students’ studies, encouraging them to get outdoors in their backyards or other safe locations.

The public also can access four virtual hikes on the NatureTrack website, to Arroyo Burro Beach, Santa Ynez Valley Botanic Garden, Midland Trails and Nojoqui Falls. 

Delivering Nature Notes to local children, according to Eisaguirre, allows organizers to provide supplemental materials in light of canceled field trips.  

“It was the Friday before the holidays, and we delivered 60 pints of milk to one family with six children to get them through the holiday vacation,” Eisaguirre said, recalling a particularly memorable December delivery. “One little girl was so elated about our Nature Notes, she was jumping up and down with excitement.”

NatureTrack resumed its deliveries to Lompoc families on Jan. 11.

“As long as [the school district] needs us to deliver, we’ll do it,” Eisaguirre noted.

For more information about NatureTrack or to donate, visit www.NatureTrack.org

Lisa André covers lifestyles and local news for Santa Ynez Valley News and Lompoc Record.