Category: News

Teens Learn Ingredients For a Healthy Life Through Santa Barbara Culinary Program

Popular free class lasts 16 weeks and teaches high school students how to cook for themselves — and more

Chef Ryan Silliman of Birnam Wood Golf Club in Montecito teaches a class of about 25 teenagers how to cook during the free Chef Apprentice program hosted by the Santa Barbara Parks & Recreation Department.

Chef Ryan Silliman of Birnam Wood Golf Club in Montecito teaches a class of about 25 teenagers how to cook during the free Chef Apprentice program hosted by the Santa Barbara Parks & Recreation Department. Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo

Most of the two dozen high school students arrived early to their weekly cooking class held after school on Mondays at the Franklin Neighborhood Center on Santa Barbara’s Lower Eastside.

They aproned up, washed their hands, sterilized cutting board work space, pulled long hair back into braids and tamed flyaways with baseball caps as pseudo hairnets.

The name tags they donned said Chef Apprentice, which is the new name for what was formerly called the Teen Culinary Arts program offered free through the Santa Barbara Parks & Recreation Department.

The popular program is still free and offered mostly to local high school juniors and seniors who are hoping to learn more about cooking and nutrition.

In its seventh year, more than 175 students have signed up for the 16-week course that could help them get a summer job in the food industry or simply prepare them for life after high school.

“For Christmas and Thanksgiving, I don’t like to do the same thing,” parks department employee and cooking teacher Anita Dominocielo-Ho said to students during a recent lesson.

Dominocielo-Ho, who coordinates the program, was teaching students how to make stuffed shells and quinoa salad. She was joined by Ryan Silliman, chef at Montecito’s Birnam Wood Golf Club.

Local teens learn about cooking through a free after-school program held at the Franklin Neighborhood Center. Click to view larger

Local teens learn about cooking through a free after-school program held at the Franklin Neighborhood Center. Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo


For the past five years, Silliman has offered students tips for healthier eating and how to tweak recipes to their liking.

Last week it was pizza; Next week, carrot cake.

Cooking comes naturally to Alberto Gil, a Santa Barbara High School sophomore in his second year as a chef apprentice.

As one of the more experienced cooks, he finely chopped sausage to go into the shells and mixed the recipe by hand — reminiscent of the cooking he’s done with his family since he was young.

Gil was assisted by a handful of dedicated program volunteers, including retired city planner Bettie Weiss, who coordinate ingredients and cooking utensils.

They also ensure that students get a pre-cooking snack of fruit and yogurt or post-completion fruit to take home along with meals — all provided through donations from the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, the Adelle Davis Foundation, the Bragg Health Institute and others.

Anita Dominocielo-Ho of the Santa Barbara Parks & Recreation Department, center, and chef Ryan Silliman of Birnam Wood Golf Club dole out cooking tips during the city’s free Chef Apprentice program. Click to view larger

Anita Dominocielo-Ho of the Santa Barbara Parks & Recreation Department, center, and chef Ryan Silliman of Birnam Wood Golf Club dole out cooking tips during the city’s free Chef Apprentice program. Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo


Cooking is more than a hobby for some, including Victor Muro, who graduated from Santa Barbara High in 2014 and is in his third year as a chef apprentice. His very first class had just 15 students.

Muro is more of a mentor these days as a Santa Barbara City College student. Since he’s studying to become a professional chef, he wears a white chef jacket instead.

“It’s really awesome,” he said. “At the beginning, it’s a little bit awkward (for students).

“But by the end of the program, it’s like a little family.”

Enrollment into the Chef Apprentice program is limited and requires an application.

Students have the choice of meeting at one of two locations — from 3:45 to 6:30 p.m. Mondays at the Franklin Neighborhood Center, 1136 E. Montecito St., or from 4:15 to 7 p.m. at the Westside Neighborhood Center, 423 W. Victoria St.


Wal-Mart Foundation shows support for Foodbank of Santa Barbara County

Santa Maria Mayor Alice Patino, representatives of Foodbank of Santa Barbara County’s board of directors and members of Wal-Mart’s local and corporate management gathered Wednesday at the Foodbank’s Santa Maria warehouse to celebrate the funding support of the Wal-Mart Foundation.

“These funds are significant in the effort to build a food-secure community, reaching youth, families and the community at large,” said Erik Talkin, CEO of Foodbank of Santa Barbara County. “The Foodbank acknowledges the Wal-Mart Foundation for their recognition and support of these critical programs.”

Foodbank has been awarded grants totaling more than $150,000 to help fund their Building a Food Secure Community project, enroll low-income families in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, and to purchase a refrigerated van.

Wal-Mart and the Wal-Mart Foundation provide donations of both food and funds to Feeding America and its nationwide member network of 200 food banks, including Foodbank of Santa Barbara County.

One in four people in the county receive some level of services from the Foodbank.

The money awarded to the Foodbank will go a long way in helping to fund 2016 programs, food bank leaders said, including expanding its food literacy programs, distribution of produce to local families in need and ensuring that the community has access to a reliable source of produce year-round.

Foodbank of Santa Barbara County Donor Celebration

Event honors growers, companies for annual donations

ORCUTT, Calif. – The Far Western Tavern in Old Town Orcutt hosted a special event Wednesday night where local farmers, growers and companies were honored for their annual donations to the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County.

“It’s a very exciting event for us, once a year we get together all of our food donors who provide a lot of donated food, fresh produce to the Foodbank“, says Foodbank of Santa Barbara County CEO Erik Talkin, “we have some huge companies that provide millions of pounds, we have some smaller growers as well, in this room behind me about half of the entire food that we get for the Foodbank, about four and a half million pounds, these people are responsible for it, so we’re extremely grateful to them and I’m sure the people of Santa Barbara County are too.”

Local growers like Adam Brothers Farming Co. were among those recognized for their generosity and commitment to the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County.

“Our family is actively involved in the Foodbank because we just think its important to give back to the community”, George Adam says, “we try to help people when they are really in need and that’s what helps the lowest in our society, it helps build our community and we can fight a lot of the social problems that we are facing these days.”

Adam says donating to the Foodbank has evolved over the years and become easier and more efficient for local growers, farmers and businesses.

“We’re able to make co-harvesting efficient so it all makes sense, we get a lot more pounds for people that need it”, Adam says, “I think over time there have been a lot of people, a lot of other businesses, that have donated a lot of product and its all part of the community that we’ve always seen with all of the farming families here in Santa Maria.”

Talkin says despite an improving economy and job growth locally, the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County is still serving one in four people in the county.

“There’s a lot of what is called food insecurity which means people have jobs but towards the end of the month they run out of money for really healthy food so they are buying very poor quality food and they get sick and people are able to work less so its kind of like a vicious cycle“, Talkin says, “so the Foodbank is very involved in trying to teach people how to be healthy with eating good food, that doesn’t cost much money, that’s really a big focus for us and there is a lot of need out there.”

Talkin says “Turning Hunger Into Health” is more than just a slogan for the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County

“We believe it can be disempowering for people to stand in a line to get food”, Talkin says, “our focus really is to say, let’s talk together about how we can be healthy as a community, let’s teach you about cooking, let’s give you some food to cook with, and then it changes the conversation, its not about us as the givers and they as the takers, but it’s a joint conversation that we all have.”

“People are really understanding that people need healthy food, its not just a question of giving some empty calories to someone and you might cause them to develop diabetes or something like that“, Talkin says, “people need fresh produce, they need to know how to use it and here we are in Santa Barbara County, we’re in the top one percent of agriculture-producing counties, so if we can’t make it work here, where can we?”

Talkin encourages people to learn more about the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County and its various programs.

“Being healthy with food and moving from hunger into health is something that we can all get involved with”, Talkin says, “its not just a question of donating food or donating money its also about getting involved in a whole range of programs that we run, teaching programs for kids, for adults, about how to cook, how to adapt yourself for food, so it’s a great way for everybody in the community to get involved.”

Foodbank Receives $150K Grants from Walmart Foundation

Foodbank’s new Grocery Rescue van will make an appearance at the upcoming event.

Foodbank’s new Grocery Rescue van will make an appearance at the upcoming event.  (Foodbank of Santa Barbara County photo)

On Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016, the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County will hold an event to acknowledge multiple grants awarded by the Walmart Foundation.

Walmart Foundation grants help build a food secure community and provide needed equipment to assist in the effort.

City of Santa Maria Mayor Alice Patino, County of Santa Barbara elected officials, the Foodbank’s board of directors and Walmart executives will attend the event.

The Foodbank has been awarded grants totaling more than $150,000 to help fund their “Building a Food Secure Community” project, enroll low income families in the SNAP program and increase their infrastructure with the purchase of a refrigerated van.

Additional support through food donations and volunteer support will also be recognized.

Walmart and the Walmart Foundation provide donations of both food and funds to Feeding America and its nationwide member network of 200 food banks, including the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County.

These grants align with Walmart’s commitment to create a more sustainable food system, including a goal of providing four billion meals to those in need in the US over the next five years.

With food insecurity remaining high throughout the country, the ability to distribute more food is critical for food banks.

According to the USDA, about 49 million people, including 16 million children, in the United States are food insecure, which means at some point during the year, they won’t know where their next meal will come from.

In Santa Barbara County, one out of four people receive some level of services from the Foodbank.

“These funds are significant in the effort to build a food secure community, reaching youth, families and the community at large,” said Erik Talkin, CEO of Foodbank of Santa Barbara County. “The Foodbank acknowledges the Walmart Foundation for their recognition and support of these critical programs.”

The money awarded to Foodbank will go a long way in helping to fund 2016 programs, including expanding the organization’s food literacy programs, distributing produce to local families in need and ensuring that the community has access to a reliable source of produce year-round.

The event will be held at the Foodbank’s Santa Maria Warehouse, and it will also highlight the newly purchased Grocery Rescue van.

Foodbank of Santa Barbara County aims to  transform health by eliminating hunger and food insecurity through good nutrition and food literacy.

Cynder Sinclair: Jump Start Your 2016 Fundraising With ‘Why’

Yikes, it’s a new year! Do you have a solid plan to ensure fundraising success for your nonprofit? Will it be more of the same or will you try new strategies?

Now is the prime time to take a hard look at your plan, create a clear focus, and get everyone re-engaged.

But first consider the secret ingredient: Why?

Achieving fundraising gold depends on creating and executing a good plan. Sure.

But before you even get started on your plan, check out the marketing guru, Simon Sinek. Read his blockbuster book, Start with Why. You can also hear him on TedTalks.

It All Starts with Why

Sinek’s message perfectly suits nonprofits. He points out that when describing our mission, we typically talk about what we do and how we do it.

We collect and distribute food, or we educate youth about the dangers of substance abuse, or we provide health care or concerts or art exhibits. That’s what we do.

And then we elaborate on how we do it. But we rarely highlight why we do our work. Some think the why should be obvious. But usually it’s not so clear.

Sinek says the why is the most important element and, yet, the most difficult to convey. He cautions that donors don’t give to your organization because of what you do or how you do it; they give because of why you do it.

Your purpose is what connects people emotionally to your cause. That’s what you are after.

Identifying the why for your organization is hard work, but critical to attracting supporters.

Try asking this question at your next board meeting: Why do we do our work?

Drill down deeper by continuing to ask why after each answer. It will stimulate lively discussion that may lead to nuggets for your fundraising message.

I guarantee that finding your why will electrify your board, your supporters, and you staff with newfound energy.

Don’t Look in the Obvious Places for Why

Some of the most well-known companies succeeded because they identified and promoted their why. You might be surprised at their conclusions.

Take Apple. They make great, beautifully designed computers. But that’s not their why. That’s not the reason they started their company.

“Challenging the status quo by thinking differently.” That’s their why. That has inspired customers for years.

What about Southwest Airlines. They are reliable, inexpensive, and get you where you want to go. But their why is “freedom.”

The message of freedom continues to entice customers, making Southwest the most successful airline in history.

Starbuck’s’ why is “your third place.” Not the best coffee; certainly not the quickest. They created success around your experience in their stores.

The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County has done a good job of finding and promoting their why. “Moving the community from hunger into health.”

This powerful message attracts more supporters every day.

In the first weeks of this New Year, I challenge you to find your organization’s why. It’s hard work; but well worth the effort. Once you identify your why, use these three tips to jump start this year’s fundraising.

A New Year Calls for a New Commitment

The start of a new year is the perfect time to re-energize your board members.

Ask a client or staff member to make a short, heart-felt presentation at the beginning of your next board meeting. The board chair then asks board members to tell why they are involved with the organization.

Once everyone is emotionally re-engaged with the mission, the development committee chair reminds everyone of the board fundraising goal, reports on progress, and then invites a few individual (pre-invited) board members to share a success story.

The chair then reminds everyone that the staff and development committee are eager to support them in any possible way.

This will help board members feel the mission, understand their role in making it possible, and recommit to their fundraising goal.

Successful Fundraising is Always a Team Sport

Successful fundraising isn’t a solo activity; it takes good teamwork.

The best team is comprised of the board chair, the development chair, the executive director, and the development director.

This highly engaged team works closely together to guide and inspire the development committee and the board to raise funds.

Working individually with each board member is critical to reaching fundraising goals.

Read this article for a sample fundraising plan individualized for each board member.

Fundraising expert, Joan Garry, suggests giving board members a card to carry in their wallet with a list of programs and ways of giving.

Plan your Work and Work your Plan

Does your organization have a clear fundraising plan? Are board and staff members actively engaged in donor identification and cultivation? How about stewardship?

The start of a new year is a great time to reevaluate your fundraising road map. Be sure each person (staff and board) knows exactly what their goal is, what their role is, and who their target audience is.

Some people are best at identifying potential donors, others are great at deepening bonds with existing donors, and others shine at stewarding relationships with long-time benefactors.

Use each person at their point of strength. Having a clear plan, a strong team and re-energized commitment will ensure your organization’s fundraising success in the New Year.

And remember . . . start by identifying your why.

Group Which Helps Feed Hungry In Santa Barbara County Gets Major Grant

A non-profit group which helps feed some 146,000 people in need annually in Santa Barbara County is getting its own helping hand.

Foodbank of Santa Barbara County is receiving more than $150,000 from the Walmart Foundation.

The grants are to support Foodbank’s nutrition education programs, to help efforts in distributing produce, and to buy a refrigerated van.

Working with more than 300 non-profit partners, Foodbank distributed nearly 10 million pounds of food last year in Santa Barbara County.

Westmont Students Research West Side Food Quality

Carly Richardson, Kaitlynn Durham and Hailey Harper present their findings to community members of the Westside Impact Group and Foodbank of Santa Barbara County.Click to view larger

Carly Richardson, Kaitlynn Durham and Hailey Harper present their findings to community members of the Westside Impact Group and Foodbank of Santa Barbara County. (Westmont photo)

Three Westmont College students have presented their research about the availability and quality of food in the West Side of Santa Barbara to more than two dozen community members of the Westside Impact Group and Foodbank of Santa Barbara County.

Kaitlynn Durham, Hailey Harper and Carly Richardson — students in Food Systems and Global Health, a course taught by Director of Global Education Cynthia Toms — visited pantry distribution sites and areas where community members congregated.

The findings, the second of a two-year study, were the culmination of a community-based research project between Toms’ Food Systems class and the Foodbank.

Last year, three Westmont students participated in a similar community research project examining food access within the West Side and comparing grocery stores.

“We recognize that the students’ research is just a starting point for community collaboration,” Toms says. “We hope future Westmont students will conduct further research to help local organizations better address food and resource access on the West Side.”

The findings confirmed that the area does not qualify as a food desert according to the standards of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Participants receiving free food distribution were satisfied with food availability and quality, but many would like to see more fresh fruits and vegetables as well as other health and nutritional education in the local community.

“When we asked what types of food people didn’t want or need, everyone started by expressing gratitude and were hesitant to say anything negative,” Richardson said. “We noticed a trend of people saying that if they didn’t need something or couldn’t eat it due to dietary restrictions, they gave it to someone else, a neighbor or a friend. It seemed the food was being consumed.”

Along with interviewing participants, the students gathered data from 21 community organizations in Santa Barbara, 11 of them completing surveys.

“After looking at the data, we found the West Side does not offer food delivery programs for seniors nor are there many childcare opportunities for younger parents,” Harper says. “One suggestion was to hold food distribution on school campuses, especially for parents. Getting to a food distribution site and having to take care of kids can be complicated.”

“We want to encourage a focus on fresh produce,” Durham says. “People relying on distributions as a main source of food have a higher risk of hypertension and diabetes.”

Of families who use food pantries nationwide 58 percent include someone with hypertension, and more than 30 percent have a member with diabetes, according to Feeding America.

Because canned foods are more typically high sodium, fresh fruit and vegetables are a healthier alternative

“We encourage the possibility of getting involved with local restaurants or grocery stores to give their excess food,” Durham said. “I know there may be legal issues with that, but there are ways to make it possible.”

In fact, City Harvest in New York collects 55 million pounds of excess food each year from restaurants, grocers and farms, delivering it to 500 community food programs across New York City.

Following this research, the Foodbank and the Westside Impact Group have decided to host a town hall meeting in January 2016 to share results and seek input on possible next steps toward food security for the most vulnerable in the West Side community.

A Helping Hand

It’s that time of year again! Every November sshutterstock_49900468ince 2009, Yardi has proudly participated in the Santa Barbara Foodbank’s annual Corporate Food & Funds Drive Challenge. By promoting friendly competition among local business, the corporate challenge is a chance to give back and support those in need during this holiday season and beyond.

Every day, thousands of people turn to the Santa Barbara Foodbank for assistance. With a commitment to supplying nutritious foods that promote a healthy lifestyle, the Santa Barbara food bank helps one in four local residents keep their larders full and their tables set not just during the holidays, but throughout the year. Though the Foodbank receives a steady flow of donations year-round, events like the Corporate Food & Funds Drive Challenge guarantees the organization receives sufficient funds and resources to operate regardless of the season.

Yardi has participated in the Corporate Food & Funds Drive Challenge from the beginning, and being part of this annual competition aligns with the company’s overall philosophy of giving back to the community. As part of the competition, over the next two months Yardi employees will work hard donating food, funds and volunteer hours in a bid to earn points that will be tallied against the efforts of the other challenge participants. Once the contest is completed, the Foodbank will use an employee-to-point ratio to crown the winner.

Last year, the challenge collectively brought in over 24,000 pounds of food (including 266 turkeys), over 400 hours of service, and more than $47,000 in donations! Though Brown and Brown Insurance may have nabbed the title in the past, this time around, the Yardi team is ready to snag that top spot.

“The competitive spirit is alive and well,” says event organizer Kelly Johnson, “and I think we’re all hoping to surpass last year’s efforts!”

For over 30 years, the Foodbank has provided millions of pounds of nutritious food along with education and other resources through its own programs and cooperative efforts with a network of almost 300 non-profit agencies in Santa Barbara Country.

With 25% of Santa Barbarians turning to the food bank for sustenance, it’s clear many neighbors, friends and family depend on this crucial service.

As we celebrate with our loved ones this holiday season, it’s important to remember that we have the ability to assist those who are struggling with life’s challenges in ways large and small. In addition to the Corporate Food & Funds Drive Challenge, there are many opportunities to support the Foodbank, including individual Food & Funds Drives, donating non-perishable food and participating in a virtual food drive online. To learn more, please visit

About the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County

The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County is transforming health by eliminating hunger and food insecurity through good nutrition and food literacy.

The Foodbank provides nourishment and education through its award-winning programs and a network of over 300 member non-profit partners.

In Santa Barbara County, one in four people receive food aid from the Foodbank; over 146,000 unduplicated people of whom 35% are children. Last year, the Foodbank distributed 9.7 million pounds of food (over 4 million pounds was fresh produce).

For more information, visit

Expand giving to all season

The data-crunching website WalletHub has compiled a list of the best and worst cities in America when it comes the number of people in need.

To no one’s surprise, the neediest populations are in places like Detroit, New Orleans and Brownsville, Texas.

Also not surprising is that five of the 10 cities with the smallest population of needy people are here in California.

No Santa Barbara County city is on the list, which is both good and bad. What it means is that, while there is affluence in abundance, there also is poverty — a problem the folks at the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County struggle with every day, not just the Christmas holiday season.

Foodbank is involved in a school lunch program that feeds thousands of kids from lower-income families each school day. It is estimated that only a fraction of the students who receive school lunches have access to nutritious lunches during the summer break. Thus, the organization runs the summer Picnic in the Park.

Nearly three-quarters of county households needing food assistance must make a choice between buying food or paying for other necessities, among them transportation, utility and medical bills.

There’s a fair chance those of you reading this editorial don’t have to make such difficult choices. But just imagine yourself in a situation in which you had to choose between food and paying bills. Try to imagine persistent hunger for a working head of a household, who makes decisions about whether to buy food or pay the rent.

It can be difficult to imagine such choices this time of year, but even harder when you have to make them with a stomach growling from lack of food.

The Foodbank and the 300-plus charitable agencies it supplies with food help an average of about 140,000 Santa Barbara County residents each year — or more than 25 percent of the county’s total population. Nearly 50,000 of those served are children 17 years and younger. More than 21,000 are seniors 60 years or older. About 17 percent of the total are military veterans, many of whom have served in wartime. These are shameful numbers, and we need to join forces to do something about it.

Last year the Foodbank distributed about 9.4 million pounds of food, with more than half of it fresh produce. An army of 600 volunteers chipped in more than 20,000 hours of time and service, the only way the good done by the Foodbank can be accomplished.

Most any kind of healthy food is a prime candidate for donation. Whole grains, vegetarian fare, fruits and vegetables, and animal protein-rich foods are optimal.

The agency had its usual holiday food drive, starting before Thanksgiving, but hunger is not a seasonal phenomenon. It’s a constant in our communities.

Donated food is good, but cash donations can be better. Foodbank’s pros can convert a donated dollar into about $7 worth of food, thanks to advantages afforded by buying in bulk.

Food and cash donations can be taken to the Foodbank’s Santa Maria warehouse at 490 W. Foster Road, weekdays from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. A list of acceptable food donations is available online at:

This is a situation in which the entire community plays a critically important part. Together, those of us who can afford to donate food or cash can help ease what has become a serious problem for so many Americans and their families — even in reasonably affluent communities like our own.

Giving is easy, and the reward is beyond measure.

Santa Barbara County Foodbank Forced To Turn Away Food Because Of Inadequate Facilities

It’s Santa Barbara County’s largest supplier of food to those in need.

Foodbank of Santa Barbara County feeds about 140,000 people a year.  But, due to a problem with its facilities, it has to turn away millions of pounds of food donations annually.

KCLU’S Lance Orozco reports Foodbank is now asking the community for help in solving the problem.

Click on link to listen to/download story:  Foodbank Crisis