Families of U.S. military personnel will be receiving support on the home front in the form of leafy greens, thanks to Operation “Salad for Soldiers.”
At locations in Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Diego Counties, fresh produce will be available to families with members serving on active duty and in the reserves. The produce, including broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce and other vegetables was donated by Bonita Packing Company (Bonipak), a family-owned business that cultivates a variety of produce on 12,000 acres throughout Santa Barbara County.
“The whole community has been so helpful with getting this done. Bonipak donated the produce, and the space and signage were also donated by members of the community,” Teri Bontrager, executive director of the Santa Barbara County Farm Bureau (SBCFB), said. “Soldiers give up a lot to fight for our freedom. Sometimes we forget the military families and the sacrifices they make.”
The idea was sparked when Stan Otremba, chair of the SBCFB’s Young Farmers and Ranchers committee saw the plight of one reservist’s family on a newscast.
“Watching the news one night I saw the family of a reservist who had been reinstated.” Otremba said. “The family was not sure how they would make it with the loss of wages.”
Otremba immediately went to his employers at Bonipak to see if they could donate food for the families. He was overwhelmed by their response.
“One of the things is that it’s a great idea and wouldn’t have happened without great people,” Otremba said. “The owners of Bonipak wanted to do what they could to support the country and support the troops.”
His employers at Bonipak donated 30,000 lbs. of produce, enough to feed 6,500 families.
“This is our way of saying ‘thanks’ to the families of our men and women serving in various branches of the U.S. military,” he said. “We want them to know that we support our troops and there is no better way for farmers to show that support than to share some of the bounty from our farmland.”
Military bases including Camp Pendleton, Miramar, Pt. Mugu and Pt. Hueneme will benefit from the donation.
Produce will be available for families in Santa Barbara County today from noon until 7:00 p.m. at two locations: the Santa Maria Fairgrounds at 937 S. Thornburg St. and in Lompoc’s Vandenburg Village, at 3734 Constellation Rd.