By Judith Smith-Meyer
After an eight-year-long search, the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County secured a new warehouse at 80 Coromar Drive in Goleta.
With 57,000 square feet of warehouse space already built and another 20,000 square feet of existing office space, the property was ideally suited to South County’s food banking needs and required fast action.
While the space has been secured with $3 million from Foodbank reserves and a loan of $9.7 million from Montecito Bank & Trust, $15 million will need to be raised in the coming year to complete the purchase and effect needed warehouse renovation (racks, cooler/freezer equipment, adding a loading dock, replacing the roof, adding solar power and making seismic improvements).
“The cost of land and building from scratch is so prohibitive, this space was an opportunity we couldn’t afford to pass up,” explained Erik Talkin, Foodbank CEO. “We’ve been exploring ways to grow and improve our Santa Barbara facility for years, especially since we experienced how suddenly need can increase and capacity to meet it can be impaired when disaster strikes.”
“We’ve seen in recent years what happens when a transport channel into the county gets blocked, as with the Montecito Debris Flow that shut down the 101,” Talkin added. “But if 101 and 154 were blocked by, say, a major earthquake, we wouldn’t be able to move food between North and South County. Santa Barbara, Goleta and Carpinteria would face a real crisis of food access.”
The Foodbank’s current space — adjacent to the Ben Page Youth Center on Hollister Avenue, and leased from the County of Santa Barbara — is only 9,000 square feet and holds only 15 percent of the food needed to feed those facing hunger in South County. The current warehouse necessitates that food be trucked down daily from the Foodbank’s primary facility in Santa Maria.
And space limitations result in tens of thousands of pounds of healthy donated produce being turned away from wholesalers in Los Angeles due to inadequate cold storage.
Meanwhile, the Foodbank continues to provide nearly double the food annually that it did pre-COVID-19; and expects increased need to continue for 18 to 24 more months as the long-term impact of the COVID-19 economic crisis unfolds.
Ongoing community support is essential to maintain necessary food sourcing and distribution.
The Foodbank has occupied its current South County space for so long, few remember that it was formerly a fire station. It cannot be expanded because the space is slated to fill other county needs.
The Foodbank is currently conducting feasibility studies and working with private partners, corporations and foundations to establish a base fund to finalize purchase of the new warehouse. A campaign for public support will launch in 2022.
Community members who wish to support those facing hunger may donate at FoodbankSBC.org.