Regular readers of this page know there are certain subjects we write about, time and time again. The reason is simple — these things are important to us, and we believe to the communities we serve.
Today will be one of those days, and the subject is the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County.
We checked our archives, and sure enough, the Foodbank and its services and programs appear dozens of times. In many ways, we can’t think of a more fitting and deserving subject.
The cause for this editorial is the Foodbank’s Picnic in the Park summer program, the purpose of which is to provide nutritious lunches for children during their vacation from school, where they would normally be fed meals. Sadly, for too many kids, that lunch might be the only real meal of the day.
Picnic in the Park begins June 10, and officials believe the total children served could easily surpass last summer’s 30,000 meals delivered and served at more than a dozen North County locations. Foodbank officials have consolidated some of the North County serving locations, but hope to provide food to a greater number of kids.
This type of program is especially crucial because Santa Barbara County has one of highest poverty rates in California, when factored on a per-capita basis.
Here’s how Picnic in the Parks works: All kids age 18 and younger can get a free meal five days a week until mid-August. There will be six serving locations in Santa Maria, two in Lompoc and two in Guadalupe. Meals will be available four days a week at a site in Los Alamos from July 1-Aug. 2.
Foodbank officials have done a good job of pinpointing areas in which the poverty levels are relatively high. Foodbank has also contracted with school district officials to have fresh meals prepared in those kitchens.
Another feature of the program we appreciate is that families don’t need to register their kids, which could have a stigmatizing effect, and instead encourage children to just drop by the serving locations. The North County serving locations are: Guadalupe, Ranch Acres Apartments and River View Townhomes; Lompoc, College Park Apartments and Palm Grove; Santa Maria, Tunnel Park, Rice Park, Mianmi Park, Los Adobes de Maria I, Grogan Park, Veterans Memorial Park; and the Los Alamos County Park.
Social rules are changing at the federal level, which has the net effect of kicking responsibilities for many programs and services back to the local level. While some folks might wonder about the efficacy of such a move, the truth is that decisions about local programs are best made at the local level. It embodies the concept of home rule and self-determination.
The Foodbank’s summer program theory is based on the fact that learning does not end when school lets out, and neither does a child’s need for solid nutrition. And it is a fact that 84 percent, or about 34,000 children in our county who receive free or reduced-priced lunches during the school year do not receive any meal assistance during the summer, a time of critical brain development in a youngster.
These are all good reasons why we support the Foodbank’s various programs, write so much about the organization’s work, and recommend to readers that when the opportunity arises, they should participate in the Foodbank’s frequent food and fund-raising drives.
These are our neighbors, and when neighbors need a little help, North County communities and their residents are always quick to respond. This is where the village concept really comes into play.