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Building Our Resilient Food System: A Community Gathering #rethinkfood

The Community Environmental Council (CEC), Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, and Santa Barbara Foundation will hold the 2nd Annual Building Our Resilient Food System: Cultivating Connections, a free community activation session to explore the vision, progress and next steps for the Santa Barbara County Food Action Plan. The open discussion will take place on Tuesday, November 13 from 6:00-8:00 p.m. at the Santa Barbara Public Library Faulkner Gallery.

RSVP on the Facebook event, Building Our Resilient Food System: Cultivating Connections or by emailing Emily Miller at emiller@cecmail.org.

Evening Program Details

At the gathering, which was attended by over 100 community members in 2017, participants will learn about an array of exciting projects that work toward the end goals of the Santa Barbara County Food Action Plan, including:

  • Student Hunger: Higher education institutions like UCSB, Allan Hancock College, Westmont, and Santa Barbara City College are running innovative programs to curb student hunger.
  • Veggie Prescription: Sansum Diabetes Clinic is seeing tangible results by providing weekly baskets of fresh produce to at-risk patients and their families.
  • Community Health: Activists in Cuyama and Lompoc are making sure thousands of residents have access to healthy food and family-friendly classes on how to prepare it.
  • Food Waste: A local network is helping recover excess prepared food from restaurants and caterers by transporting it to and sharing it with organizations that provide food to those facing hunger.
  • Healthy Soils: Ranchers and farmers are seeing measurable results from regenerative agriculture practices that increase their bottom line while drawing down carbon from the air.

As it did last year, this community gathering seeks not only to share the progress and data of groups actively working with the Food Action Plan, but also to broaden and solidify the network. The evening will feature:

  • scheduled speakers and videos
  • attendee sign up to share two-minute synopses of work they are doing, whether it is as simple as a neighborhood garden or a broader coordinated effort
  • a networking session, including refreshments, that will help connect the dots between groups that can support each other in their food efforts.

Forming Powerful Partnerships

“Since launching the Food Action Plan in May 2016, we have helped realize the formation of powerful new programs, partnerships and networks,” stated Barbara Anderson, Chief Strategy Officer at the Santa Barbara Foundation. “While we’ve directly engaged nearly 600 community members and organizations in outreach efforts about the Food Action Plan, the work these people and groups are doing has had direct and positive impacts for thousands of residents across the county. ”

One such partnership is between Sansum Diabetes Research Institute in Santa Barbara and Fairview Gardens in Goleta, who first connected at last year’s Building Resilient Food Systems event.  The Institute’s Director of Research and Innovation Dr. David Kerr had what he calls “a radical yet simple” proposition: prescribing vegetables instead of medicine to Type 2 diabetes patients. Santa Barbara Foundation’s LEAF Initiative funded a 3-month trial, with Fairview Gardens donating produce and Unity Shoppe acting as a pick up location for patients. Dr. Kerr shared that, over 3 months, the majority of the dozens who participated lost weight, took inches off their waistline circumference, and had significant decreases in blood pressure.  Noting that this disease disproportionately affects those of lower socioeconomic levels, he stated, “Having spent many years dishing out medicines, which are expensive and prone to side effects, it is heartening to see that prescribing vegetables is effective, safer and, importantly, much less expensive than traditional pharmaceuticals.”

The Cuyama Valley-based Blue Sky Center, whose projects aim to regenerate their local economy, land and community, also leveraged LEAF funding to pilot a program based off needs identified in their Cuyama Valley Food Action Plan. Executive Director Em Johnson shared, “Starting in April and running through July, Blue Sky hosted a series of culinary workshops in relationship to the Cuyama Kitchen, our mobile community catering trailer, to engage community members around a shared table. Using food as a vehicle to build local capacity, we provided a space for storytelling – celebrating cultural heritage, supporting local businesses and entrepreneurs, promoting healthy eating, and building an understanding of dryland environments.”

Creating a Resilient Food System

The Community Environmental Council and the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County spearheaded the creation of the Santa Barbara Food Action Plan in 2015-16, which involved over 1,200 hours of volunteer work from over 200 community members. The Santa Barbara Foundation served as a major partner in the launch, and has continued support through its LEAF (Landscapes, Ecosystems, Agriculture, Food Systems) Initiative, which provides grants for projects that create positive change in the local food system. Some of these projects will be highlighted at the event.  

“As our community has experienced first-hand this year, we are in a time when the need to build resilience to natural disasters and other threats to our food system has never been greater,” said Sigrid Wright, CEO/Executive Director of the Community Environmental Council. “At the same time, there are powerful solutions in the works – like carbon farming – that have the potential to mitigate and even reverse the impacts of climate change, which is at the root of many of the increased threats. Gatherings like this help community members see this bigger picture, and provide them ways to plug into a network that is creating solutions.”

The event is being organized by Community Environmental Council, Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, and Santa Barbara Foundation, and co-sponsored by the Santa Barbara Food Alliance and Santa Barbara Permaculture Network. For more information about the Santa Barbara County Food Action Plan and how to get involved in its network, visit www.sbcfoodaction.org.

Nicole Wald
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Nicole Wald

Nicole Wald is a freelance writer and educator in Santa Barbara, CA with a passion for helping the planet. She supports CEC in developing content for social media, PR, marketing, and the annual Earth Day Festival. Part of this work includes gathering stories of people along the Central Coast who consciously take steps to reduce their carbon footprint.
Nicole Wald
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