As Central Coast residents finish their last-minute Christmas shopping, Foodbank of Santa Barbara County staff hope people will consider gifting cash to the organization so it can continue feeding thousands countywide.
The Foodbank recently announced it has reached the halfway point of serving 1.25 million meals this holiday season by providing healthy food and produce, as well as critical support to 300 hunger-relief nonprofits and programs the agency partners with across Santa Barbara County.
However, the Foodbank still needs the community's support to raise $242,000 by year's end to ensure it will be able to continue feeding the hungry through its work with partner agencies, while also sustaining the nonprofit into the new year, said CEO Erik Talkin.
"People assume we exist on (food) donations that we get from the community," Talkin said, noting the assumption is false. "We really need some help to put us over the edge. We didn't meet our goal last year, and our budget suffered. If we aren't able to raise the money, we'll have to look at cuts in programs and food."
Much of what the Foodbank supplies to its partners, including the Central Coast Rescue Mission, Housing Authority in Santa Maria, Lompoc's Weitzel Center and Hope Community Church in Santa Maria to name just a handful, doesn't always come from community donations, Talkin said.
"We have to buy a lot of the food, especially the protein," he said, adding the Foodbank also has to fuel its trucks and keep forklifts operating, both of which take money.
The Foodbank has a $4 million cash operating budget and receives $10 million in in-kind food donations, but the agency still needs financial help.
"It is a significant amount of money (to raise), but it's a good investment," Talkin said. "We always tell people, 'If you're supporting us, you're supporting the 300 agencies as well.'"
An anonymous donor has pledged a matching $100,000 gift until the end of year, so all donations will be doubled up to the matching amount.
Talkin added, "Often at Christmas, you buy a present and it gets broken or it's gone. This is a way of giving a present to someone in the community that will last all year long."
Donations can be made online by visiting http://foodbanksbc.org/, by calling the Foodbank at 937-3422 or stopping by the Santa Maria warehouse at 490 W. Foster Road between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
One in four people receive food support from the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, with nearly 35 percent of those individuals being children.