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A Year in Review: Exploring the Impact of the Santa Barbara County Food Action Plan

When a small rural impact center with the mission to regenerate the economy, land and communities of the Cuyama Valley called Blue Sky Center was building its strategic plan, the first place it turned for guidance was to the Santa Barbara County Food Action Plan. Having participated in the formation of the plan from the start, the Blue Sky Center knows that the breadth and depth of the plan reaches across the county and across multiple sectors. By basing its strategic plan on the Food Action Plan recommendations, the Blue Sky Center learned that small structural changes yielded large positive returns for its local organizations and, thus, a larger community impact. Now, over a year after the plan launched, the Blue Sky Center is still following the Food Action Plan to expand its impact to grow agribusiness, create an investment portfolio and open opportunities for its citizens.

“The Santa Barbara County Food Action Plan is a broad blueprint of everything that can lead us to a stronger food system,” said Emily Johnson, Development Director of the Blue Sky Center. “The broadness of the plan allows each organization to pick out the items that work for its mission and community, which, for us, would be implementing small changes, in order to achieve the greatest success. The possibilities offered by this tool are endless and have had a great impact on our community.”

The Santa Barbara County Food Action Plan, which is a community-driven strategic plan that assesses and provides recommendations for how to grow, distribute, consume and dispose of food, was launched in 2016 by the Community Environmental Council, the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, the Santa Barbara Foundation and the Orfaela Foundation. Now, over a year later, the partners of the Santa Barbara County Food Action Plan are holding an event on Wednesday, October 25 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Santa Barbara Public Library to discuss the impact and successes of the plan for organizations, like the Blue Sky Center, and brainstorm new opportunities for growth.

“We want to have a community dialogue to explore the progress of the Santa Barbara County Food Action Plan and allow individuals, businesses, schools and organizations of all types to continue to shape the plan with their own feedback about the influence the plan has had in their communities,” said Sharyn Main, Senior Director of Community Investments at the Santa Barbara Foundation. “We want to provide those who are inspired by the Food Action Plan with a space to collaborate and learn from each other, much like what happened in creating the plan itself.”

The Santa Barbara Foundation became involved in the Food Action Plan as a part of the LEAF Initiative, which is a collaborative effort led by the foundation that seeks to advance regional strategies to increase land conservation, improve ecosystem health, ensure agricultural viability and improve the local food system. As a result of this initiative and its participation in the Santa Barbara County Food Action Plan, the foundation dedicated funding in 2016 and 2017 to projects that closely aligned with the priorities of the plan. For example, it helped fund the opening of Alma Cena Sana, a food access center in Lompoc that aims to raise awareness on healthy eating and provide resources to food-insecure individuals.

“The Foodbank opened Alma Cena Sana in Lompoc as a direct result of the priorities outlined in the Food Action Plan,” said Lee Sherman, Director of Community Impact for the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County. “The goal is that it will eventually be integrated fully into the community and serve as an access point for individuals to get together to ask for what they need so we can help them get it done.”

As a project of one of the Santa Barbara County Food Action Plan’s partners, the Food Access Center is just one of the many success stories that will be discussed at the event on October 25. For more information about the event, Santa Barbara County Food Action Plan or the Santa Barbara Foundation’s LEAF Initiative, please visit our website or contact Sharyn Main, smain@sbfoundation.org.

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