Families turn out for fun, learn about healthy food
Celia Allred, a volunteer with the Santa Barbara County Foodbank, hands out bags of groceries to Lompoc residents Tuesday during the grand opening of the Foodbank’s Food Pantry at the Anderson Recreation Center.
Magdalena Berumen, outreach manager with the Santa Barbara County Foodbank, prepares a healthy banana split, made with fresh strawberries and bananas, chopped nuts and yogurt, on Tuesday at the the opening of the new food pantry.
9 hours ago • Willis Jacobson / [email protected]
Shortly after accepting a bag of food, Amanda Powers caught up with some friends as she watched her 2-year-old son run around Tuesday at the AndersonRecreationCenter.
Powers and her son, Austin, were joined by dozens of families from throughout the LompocValley at the gym, which was filled with information booths, food demonstrations and games for kids.
“This is great,” she said. “It’s a fun family event.”
While there was certainly fun to be had, the main focus was on healthy eating.
The two-hour event was a part of the Healthy Food Pantry program, which is run by the Santa Barbara County Foodbank. Although the Foodbank has been hosting its pantry program in the county for more than two years, it didn’t arrive in Lompoc until June.
On Tuesday, several of the organizers were joined by city, business and school leaders — as well as the families who utilize the service — as they formally launched the program in the Lompoc Valley.
“Lompoc is one of the higher-need areas in our county, and in my opinion, this site has been long overdue,” said Kyli Gallington, the Foodbank’s community programs manager. “So we’re thrilled to be out here.”
The program, which is aimed at low-income families, allows residents to pick up free bags of food, at least half of which is fresh produce. Each of the monthly health fair-style events also offers food preparation demonstrations based on the contents of that month’s bags — Tuesday’s demo was on healthy banana splits — as well as booths on other social services.
“Families come here for the food, and while we’ve got them here, we just ask that they listen to us,” Gallington said. “It’s a really great avenue to offer nutritional education and physical education and different ways that we can encourage families to be healthy.”
Tuesday’s event was the third in Lompoc for the program, which is also offered in Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, Santa Ynez and Goleta. While each of the first three have been held at the AndersonRecreationCenter, it will change locations next month. The AdultEducationCenter is being looked at as a possible new venue.
Among the officials who attended Tuesday’s ribbon-cutting were Lompoc Mayor John Linn, Lompoc Unified School District Superintendent Trevor McDonald, City Council members Ashley Costa and DeWayne Holmdahl, along with representatives from the chamber of commerce and the Foodbank board of directors.
There were also several volunteers who helped hand out the food bags, including Air Force personnel from Vandenberg Air Force Base.
Judith Monte, the Foodbank’s development manager, said the Lompoc events are being used as models throughout the county.
So far, the events have proved popular in Lompoc.
The organizers mainly target families with school-age children, so they focus their advertisements on schools with at least 50 percent of students receiving free or reduced lunches. There are six such schools in LUSD.
While the program is aimed at lower-income residents, it does not require proof of income.
“We recognize that families may not be low-income, but they may have a rough month and need food assistance,” Gallington said. “Or maybe they want to come here for the services but not the food. We welcome everyone to come here and join us.”
The events have drawn about 100 families each month, but Gallington said she is hoping that number rises as it becomes more embedded in the community.
“We want to reach 200,” she said. “We want to reach as many as we can.”
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