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CEC Launches Food Rescue Network #rethinkfood

We are proud to announce our latest program designed to #rethinkfood in our region: SBC Food Rescue.

Why Food Rescue?

The latest of CEC’s efforts to build a more climate-resilient Central Coast, SBC Food Rescue helps alleviate local food insecurity while keeping good food out of the landfill. “When food is sent to the landfill, it decomposes and produces methane – a greenhouse gas that is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide,” commented Sigrid Wright, CEO/Executive Director of CEC. Noting that about 40% of food produced in the US is never eaten and that nearly 50% of low-income households in Santa Barbara County deal with issues of  food insecurity, Wright said, “it is unconscionable that we are throwing away good, healthy food.”

SBC Food Rescue addresses these concerns by redirecting excess, nutritious food from places like restaurants, hotels, and supermarkets to charitable organizations serving food insecure populations. The program seeks to fill in the gaps of current infrastructure, targeting food that the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County and similar organizations can not capture. This ensures the natural resources used to produce that food are not wasted, more people have access to food, and less methane is produced in the landfill.

The Network in Action

The first pilot partnership, between Chumash Casino and Buellton Senior Center, has been steadily sending over 500 pounds of food per month to seniors. Another partnership recently formed between Pure Joy Catering and Sarah House, a home that provides end-of-life care for low-income individuals, with approximately 78 pounds of food donated in the first month.

Sarah House Manager, Paloma Espino, was enthusiastic about the first donation: “Pick up was easy, food was delicious and the folks around the table were happy knowing this came from a well- known catering company. For the staff, it was wonderful to have the extra time to do the many things that keep us busy in this home and not have to spend a lot of time in the kitchen since we knew our dinner was taken care of.”

Ongoing donor relationships are at the heart of SBC Food Rescue, but the network can also support one-time donations, as Devin Scott of Planned Parenthood shares: ”We hosted a meeting of our statewide affiliates in July. We ended up having food left over from the lunch catered by Lucky Penny. I remembered that Susan Case (of Social Venture Partners) had talked to my wife (a chef with Savoir Fare Catering) about this new program for donating leftover food, so I gave a call. A short time later Sarah House was driving away with a car full of food.”

Program Partners

SBC Food Rescue, which operates with support from private, public, and nonprofit sectors, emerged out of a series of community roundtables held by CEC over the past three years, including work tied to the Santa Barbara County Food Action Plan. These discussions had a spin-off effect of opening up conversations and potential partnerships between long-established organizations.

Local governments, including the City of Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara County, encourage SBC Food Rescue efforts. In particular, the Public Health Department’s Division of Environmental Health Services (EHS) is an advocate. Kendra Wise, EHS Supervising Environmental Health Specialist, sees the program as a “triple win: we feed our hungry neighbors, we lessen the burden on our landfills, and we help reduce the production of gases that contribute to global climate change.”

Commenting on the protections in place for donors and recipients, Wise noted, “Donating wholesome food for distribution by charitable organizations is legal and California state law has protections in place for businesses who donate. EHS encourages businesses to donate wholesome foods to charitable organizations, and we are happy to work with both donor and receiving organizations to make sure that the donation process is safe and efficient.”

Social Venture Partners Santa Barbara – comprised of highly engaged donors looking to realize greater impact with their giving – supported the network’s launch with funding and community connections. Former Deckers COO Zohar Ziv is among the many prominent community figures engaged in Social Venture Partners. He shared, “We are very excited to be partnering with CEC on a food recovery program that helps our hungry neighbors and reduces needless waste. In particular, we look forward to expanding this project to include more donors and recipient agencies throughout Santa Barbara County.”

Building the Network

SBC Food Rescue is actively working to build its membership and create a vibrant County network. Donor organizations can include restaurants, hotels, caterers, supermarkets, or other facilities that prepare large amounts of food on a regular basis. Donors who have excess food, charitable organizations that feed hungry people, and groups that transport food are all encouraged to sign up at For questions, visit the website or contact Food Rescue Program Coordinator Julia Blanton at

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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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