With Thanksgiving tomorrow, a sharp decline in donations has left the Santa Barbara Food Bank without enough provisions to supply local agencies with the food they need to feed the county’s thousands of hungry people.
The food bank, which houses and distributes provisions to 180 Santa Barbara agencies, has received orders for 5,200 turkeys from groups looking to host Thanksgiving meals this year. Santa Barbara Food Bank Community Relations Director Diane Durst said the food bank will fall at least 1,000 turkeys short of meeting this demand, due to a decreasing amount of donations. As a result, several of these local organizations have taken to raising their own funds and food supplies for this year’s feasts.
Durst said approximately 60,000 people in the Santa Barbara area count on the food bank, which relies solely on donations, for their Thanksgiving meals. This year, however, the food bank has had trouble finding people who are willing to donate turkeys, condiments, side dishes or money.
“Angels are few and far between this year,” Durst said. “We are over 1,000 turkeys short at the moment – every year gets tougher and tougher.”
Durst said the shortage is part of a larger trend she has noticed in the past two years and she thinks people are more reluctant to contribute to local causes because they are donating money to natural disaster relief efforts, such as Hurricane Katrina or the tsunami that struck Southeast Asia last winter.
“Usually by this time, we have people coming in and donating two and three turkeys,” Durst said. “We just don’t have that this year. Every dollar donated stays within county lines, so we hope that people want to donate locally as well as worldwide.”
Derika Brendsel, assistant to the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission’s president, said the mission has taken it upon itself to supplement the shortage in turkeys this year through it’s third annual turkey drive, which was hosted by 101.7 K-LITE, a local radio station.
Since the mission – which specializes in providing assistance to people with substance-abuse problems – met its goal of 150 turkeys, Brendsel said, K-LITE Morning Show co-host Gary Fruin will perform a special Thanksgiving stunt at 10:30 a.m.
“If we meet our goal of 150 Turkeys, Gary promised to put on a turkey suit and run down State Street, starting at De La Guerra,” Brendsel said. “He should be out in full force, turkey costume and all.” Pacific Pride Foundation Executive Director Buck Derrington said that his organization, which provides advocacy and assistance for people suffering from AIDS, is collecting donations, as well as relying on the food bank.
“We’re relying a lot on direct donations as well,” Derrington said. “We’re doing fairly well on Thanksgiving, but right after that we’ll be in need again.” The Pacific Pride Foundation has not organized any major fundraisers for the holiday season, Derrington said, but he said he is open to hearing suggestions from students about events that could involve UCSB.
“Any suggestions would help – turkey drives, turkey runs, anything,” Derrington said. “Any help we can get from students coming back for finals before Christmas would be great.”
Durst said she thinks the food bank will probably use most of its stock for Thanksgiving, and will then face the problem of finding more food to distribute for Christmas.
“People are still going to be hungry after we put these turkeys on the table,” Durst said. “We start all over again on Monday.”