Staff Report

The Community Environmental Council has received $116,000 from Cal Recycle to feed hungry students at Santa Barbara City College and Hancock College as part of an innovative food rescue program that is also intended to help the region reduce waste and fight climate change.

The Community Environmental Council (CEC) coordinates SBC Food Rescue, a collaborative food recovery network for Santa Barbara County with support from private, public and nonprofit sectors.

CEC’s partnership with the two local community colleges will create more opportunities for the Foodbank and businesses with excess food, such as supermarkets, hotels, restaurants and caterers, to safely provide donations to students who are struggling with food insecurity.

It will also keep an estimated 84,000 pounds of food out of the landfill.

“This grant provides a great collaborative opportunity to redirect excess food to those in need,” said Sigrid Wright, CEO/executive director for the CEC.

“Keeping edible food out of the landfill while increasing access to sufficient nutritious food is a key component of our efforts to build a sustainable, healthy food system,” Wright said.

The grant funds will help extend the reach of the SBC Food Rescue program, which already has participation from a number of local organizations and businesses.

“The SBCC Food Pantry currently serves over 3,500 students per semester with food from the Santa Barbara Food Bank and our campus permaculture gardens,” said Rachel Johnson, director of grants for the SBCC Foundation. “This grant will equip us to give away prepared foods safely as well, meaning students get fed and that food doesn’t end up in the garbage. ”

Some $40,000 in funding will allow SBCC to upgrade its food pantry with reinforced flooring to accommodate new refrigerators, additional storage racks, and new air conditioning units.

At Hancock, the Culinary Arts & Management Program will focus on rescuing food from local restaurants in areas where municipal organic waste collection and recycling are not available, by forming partnerships and providing equipment and training.

“Allan Hancock College culinary students will take food from both local restaurants and the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County and then prepare and distribute it to students in need,” said LeeAnne McNulty, Hancock College director of grants.

“The college will use the grant funds for food packaging equipment, a trailer and insulated bags for transportation, thermometers to ensure food safety, promotion and training materials, student worker funding, and compostable service items,” she said. “We are very excited to help our students with food insecurities through these new tools.”

California’s Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) has awarded $11 million in grants to 36 projects throughout the state that prevent waste, fight climate change, and distribute good food to Californians who need it.

When food is sent to the landfill, it decomposes and produces methane — a greenhouse gas that is more potent than carbon dioxide.

In Santa Barbara County, 50 percent of low-income households deal with food insecurity, and community college students are among those who lack access to adequate, healthy food.

According to the results of the California Community Colleges #RealCollege Survey released in March, half of the nearly 40,000 California community college students who responded were “food insecure” in the prior 30 days.