Congresswoman Julia Brownley visits Ventura County’s regional food bank
By Peggy Kelly
Published: September 04, 2013
By Marleen Canniff
Santa Paula Times
On Friday Congresswoman Julia Brownley visited Ventura County’s regional food bank, FOOD Share, to meet with volunteers from its Oxnard warehouse and to speak with agricultural leaders in the community who generously donate a bulk of their produce to provide nutritious meals for Ventura County’s hungry.
Attending the event were local and national agricultural leaders, such as FOOD Share board member and District Manager Chris Dryden from Mission Produce, Central Coast District Director Jeanette Lombardo of California Women for Agriculture, and Dr. A.E. (Bud) Sloan, a cattle rancher and veterinarian from Santa Paula who serves in leadership of the California Cattlemen’s Association as Chairmen of the Cattle Health Committee and has an appointment to the Governor’s Cattle Disease Task Force as an advisor to the Animal Health Branch of the California Department of Food and Agriculture.
At the event, Rep. Brownley thanked the many local farmers and cattle ranchers for their hard work and generosity, and said, “It’s because of what all of you do every single day, making sure that we have a rich agricultural base here, which is so imperative to our economic vitality and our economic backbone here in Ventura County.” She continued, “I want to have the deepest understanding of what your issues and challenges are, so that I can be your very best partner in Washington.”
Headed by Bonnie Weigel, president and CEO of FOOD Share, the nonprofit collects and receives more than 9 million pounds of food year-round, mostly from local farmers, and distributes nutritious vegetables, fruits and meats through more than 162 pantry partner agencies throughout Ventura County, including Santa Paula, Ventura, Fillmore, Camarillo, Moorpark, Oak View, Ojai, Oxnard, Simi Valley, Somis, and Thousand Oaks. More than 75,000 people receive food from this warehouse each month countywide through its partner agencies and multiple programs.
Santa Paula alone receives 1 ton of fresh produce from this food bank every week to feed thousands of food-insecure residents in the community, including families with children, seniors and veterans. Kay Wilson-Bolton, who runs the Many Meals program in town, said that “more than 50 volunteers from three food pantries in Santa Paula help to feed the many families who are on minimum wage as well as retirees who are on limited social security.”
Wilson-Bolton said that for many of these residents, “the end of the month can be a scary time. We get calls from grandmothers raising grandchildren and families who are struggling to pay rent or buy tires, for example, and can’t afford food.” She explained that FOOD share provides Spirit of Santa Paula and other nonprofit food service providers with generous amounts of nutritious foods, stating that “They are one amazing partner.”
Yet there have been many challenges to preserve the agricultural industry in the county, so that it can become even more economically viable, as there is greater demand on what our local farmers produce. Brownley stressed the importance of her partnering with FOOD Share “to make sure that our agricultural community in Ventura County continues to thrive and grow.”
In June, the Senate passed both the Farm Bill and the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill; however, said Brownley, “It’s been a little bit more of a challenge in the House.” She went on to say, “But I’m due back in Washington on September the 8th, and we plan hopefully to roll up our sleeves and address these two very, very important issues in Ventura County, “ and she assured the agricultural leaders that she is “working very, very hard to see passage on those two very important bills.”
Afterwards, Rep. Brownley attended an annual FOOD Share picnic that honored hundreds of the volunteers who help the regional food bank fulfill its mission.