Meet at the market: produce in action

Written by
IMG_20151020_160158013
Food Bank of Santa Barbara County CEO Erik Talkin and Backyard Bounty coordinator Alexa Senter at the market. Photo: Kathryn Barnes

Each week we meet up with Katie Hershfelt of Cultivate Events as she chats with farmers, chefs and shoppers at the Santa Barbara Certified Farmers’ Market.

This week, she spoke with Erik Talkin, CEO of the Food Bank of Santa Barbara County and Alexa Senter, who coordinates the Food Bank’s Backyard Bounty program about the Food Action Plan.

Collage5
Current Food Bank programs in action. Photos: Food Bank of Santa Barbara County

According to Talkin, although Santa Barbara County is in the top 1% of agriculture producing counties in America, it is ranked 14th worst in California’s 58 counties in terms of food insecurity.

“We have amazing farmers markets, but there are barriers to access for lower income individuals and families,” he said, citing cost and a lack of nutrition education as the main problems.

Talkin hopes to address these barriers through the Food Action Plan. First, the plan breaks the food system down into different lenses, like food justice, agricultural viability and environment. Once the problems are understood within each lens, the Food Bank will work with various stakeholders like government officials, farmers, health department workers and nonprofit leaders to begin taking action in 2016.

For example, Talkin wants to tackle food access and justice issues by expanding personally grown produce.

“There are a lot of of restrictions, in Santa Barbara particularly, that stop people from using their front gardens to grow food,” said Talkin.

He hopes to create a second tier of farmers market, where people with lower incomes can purchase fresh produce at lower prices from those in their neighborhood.

Collage1
Volunteers head out with the Food Bank’s Backyard Bounty program to pick fruit. Photos: Food Bank of Santa Barbara County

In a way, that’s already happening. The Food Bank’s Backyard Bounty program exemplifies the type of action the Food Bank hopes to do more of through their plan.

“During the winter, when the rest of the country is experiencing actual winter, we have this bountiful crop of citrus fruit that’s growing,” said Alexa Senter, who coordinates the program.

Anyone with fruit trees can register online. Then, a group of volunteers will come to pick oranges, tangerines, lemons, persimmons and more, and distribute them to schools, shelters and other partner agencies.

“Otherwise it would go to waste, and we can put that food into the hands of people that need it really rapidly,” said Senter.

Senter hopes to host a weekly fresh food drive at the Saturday Santa Barbara Farmers Market. Anyone can drop off their extra produce, and farmers can donate their unsold goods at the end of the market day.

To check out all our past farmers market segments, click here.