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Three item collage. 1, a chef preparing food. 2, a server handing out food to community members. 3,  three smiling children

The UCSB-Community Food Security Initiative

Leveraging UC Santa Barbara’s best resource: our people

Donors have united in support of the UCSB-Community Food Security Initiative, a new program that provides over 5,000 family meals weekly to local nonprofit distribution sites. This critical connection has provided UC Santa Barbara culinary staff a meaningful role in the community while nurturing those affected financially by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We're filling a void,” said Jill Horst, executive director of campus dining. “We're preparing a nutritionally complete meal that a family can consume right there or take home to heat up.”

Because of the pandemic, demand has doubled for Foodbank of Santa Barbara County services over the past six months. A local health report found that 21% of Santa Barbara County adults surveyed felt unable to provide enough food to meet their needs. Meals from the UCSB-Community Food Security Initiative supplement the staple goods that food banks provide and help families eat together. Distribution sites at Casa De La Raza, Isla Vista Youth Projects, the Santa Barbara Unified School District, and six other nonprofits centralize service delivery for families as well as seniors and the homeless.

“This work has affected our culinary staff to the heart,” said Jill. “They are providing food to the local community where they live each day. I had a well-trained culinary staff who were not working at full capacity while students are not on campus. This initiative has helped with morale and job security.”

Generous seed gifts from Doug Troxel of the Change Happens Foundation and Claudia ’75 and Alec ’76 Webster launched The UCSB-Community Food Security Initiative. Additional private support from Deanna and Jim Dehlsen, and other trustees and friends, has helped increase production from 5,000 to 7,500 families weekly. The initiative has served over 100,000 meals since its inception.

“We are witnessing a staggering rise in hunger worldwide due to COVID-19,” said Doug. “All of us at the Change Happens Foundation are honored to be able to support UCSB’s efforts to provide healthy prepared meals to Santa Barbara County residents struggling with food insecurity and applaud the UCSB culinary staff and local non-profits working together to serve those in need.”

The coronavirus pandemic is a medical and humanitarian crisis that has disproportionately affected our most vulnerable communities. The UCSB-Community Food Security Initiative creates meaningful work for culinary staff that nourishes families with healthy, complete meals, filling a gap in existing food security services.