Saturday give-away program gaining new partnerships a year into operation
By Pamela Dozois
Greg Ryan of Bell’s Restaurant in Los Alamos has been the driving force behind “Feed the Valley,” a program that supports restaurant owners and their employees by providing healthy, nutritious meals to seniors and local families in need. The program began in March 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and recession.
Ryan writes on the “Feed the Valley” website, “We quickly made it our mission to retain all staff and to ensure they had the financial means to support their families. Yet, as we transitioned to limited on-premises dining and growing our takeout business, we knew these initiatives could only get us so far.
“Almost immediately, friends and neighbors began to reach out with ideas that could save our business. The most compelling, for us, was to have our team cook for members of our community currently experiencing food insecurity — a concept we called ‘Feed the Valley,’ pilot testing our ability to contribute throughout the spring.”
Ryan approached Monna Dingman, executive director of the Los Alamos Foundation, who suggested he contact the Santa Barbara Foundation, with whom he partnered to ensure the successful collection of donations, as well as with respected local charities to help distribute healthy, nutritious meals to the families most in need of their services.
Bell’s initially provided 90 meals per week for seniors and low-income and home-bound residents of Los Alamos. That number has since increased to 140 meals per week thanks to the generosity of not only Bell’s, but Pico and Plenty on Bell restaurants, which also came on board the program.
The Los Alamos Foundation started a food distribution program at the beginning of the pandemic and have fed between 125-150 families every Saturday. Working directly with the Santa Barbara Food Bank, Veggie Rescue, and the Berry Man, who provides the food necessary for distribution.
“We’ve only had two Saturdays off — Christmas and New Year’s Day. We’re here every Saturday rain or shine,” said Laura Beas, community outreach coordinator for the Los Alamos Foundation.
“I am one of the people who delivers the meals and about six of my seniors who know when I’m coming are waiting by the door for their warm meal,” she said. “They say it’s delicious and it’s healthy and they appreciate the effort we make.”
“It’s wonderful to see the community pull together with their time, effort and donations through these difficult times,” said volunteer Debra Vidro. “We received a shipment of milk and another of meat and had no place to store it. So, we reached out to Collins Market and the Los Alamos Market and they allowed us to store it in their freezers. The Los Alamos Valley Senior Center has opened its doors for the food distribution program. This is what I mean about community pulling together to benefit one another.”
“We are very excited and thankful to have ‘Feed the Valley’ up and running in partnership with the Santa Barbara Foundation,” Beas said. “A lot of people depend on those meals made by Plenty on Bell, Pico and Bell’s.”
“We live in a community with the most caring people who show it daily through their generosity,” said Vidro.
“The goal of this initiative is to grow — to support not only our team, but also the employees of multiple independent restaurants as we provide healthy, nutritious meals to local families. But we can’t do it alone,” Ryan stated on the Feed the Valley website. “Through your tax-deductible donations, we can save countless jobs and ensure the continued health of our community. By acting together, we can both preserve the Valley we love and plant seeds of generosity that will far outlast this season of uncertainty.”
The program has grown as now Santa Ynez Valley People Helping People (PHP) recently joined to partner to deliver warm meals three days a week to Los Alamos seniors and families.
“Our staff are answering more calls for rental and utility assistance in a single day than we would have during an entire month in previous years,” said Valerie Kissell, CEO of PHP. “We have families living in hotels and cars right here in our beautiful valley. We have individuals unsure where their next meal is going to come from. Creative thinking and new partnerships are going to be necessary for us to meet the needs of our community. We are inspired by Daisy and Greg Ryan’s leadership to Feed the Valley. Through this collaboration we not only deliver a warm meal, but we show people that our community takes care of our neighbors.”
The Los Alamos Foundation is always looking for more volunteers and donations. Call Beas at 805-714-2390. Local restaurants who are interested in participating in the ‘Feed the Valley’ program can also contact Beas at 805-714-2390 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To donate to Feed the Valley, visit https://www.sbfoundation.org/give-now/give-to-feed-the-valley/. To learn more about PHP, its programs, and ways that you can help, please visit the PHP web site at www.syvphp.org or call 805-686-0295.