Two National Guard members involved in an accident while delivering food from the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County were uninjured, Marketing Communications Manager Judith Smith-Meyer said.
The incident didn’t involve any other vehicles, and the truck wasn’t speeding nor was it too heavy, Smith-Meyer said.
PHOTO COURTESY OF JACQUELINE PILAR PHOTOGRAPHY
FILLING A NEED For the first time ever, the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County is hosting a deployment of National Guard troops to help with heightened food distribution efforts due to COVID-19.
“We’ve been distributing more than double the amount of food that we normally do and using our usual fleet of trucks to do it. The trucks are on the road twice as much, maybe more, because we have more distributions than we had before the COVID crisis took place,” Smith-Meyer said. “The more trucks are out on the road, the greater the chances are that something like this might happen.”
The foodbank is currently giving out more than double the amount of food that the organization normally distributes to the community, so Smith-Meyer said that having National Guard members deployed to help out has been a lifesaver.
“They’re just so skilled and well trained, they work super hard, they’re great with the public, they’re great with the staff,” she said. “They’re super-volunteers.”
Master Sgt. Joseph Magat, one of the National Guard members currently deployed at the foodbank, told the Sun that the organization needs more help to keep up with the unprecedented demand.
“They’re always hurting for volunteers. We’ve gotten some, but very little,” Magat said. “I was thinking, ‘If we do leave, how can they sustain the amount of work that we’ve been putting in?’ I don’t think it can be done. With the foodbank workers alone, they don’t have enough staff.”
Smith-Meyer said that at first, the national guard’s deployment was only supposed to be for two weeks. The unit of 20 troops volunteering at the foodbank are normally based in Oxnard out of the Channel Island National Guard Base, so they are living in hotels until their deployment finishes, Magat said.
“They joined us on March 27, the initial deployment was just for two weeks, and then we got approved to have them with us until May 4,” Smith-Meyer said. “Now they’re approved to be with us until May 31. We love them, so of course we’re hoping that we can extend that deployment.”
When the National Guard members aren’t deployed, Smith-Meyer said they hold a wide variety of civilian jobs including doctors, EMTs, paramedics, and nurses. Magat said he is a nurse.
Some of the North County food distribution efforts that National Guard members are helping with include delivering 70 meals to seniors in the Cuyama Valley through the Cuyama Valley Family Resource Center.
“Services are really slim out there so that’s an essential demographic that’s not getting a lot of help otherwise,” Smith-Meyer said.
Later this week, the foodbank is also sending 80 meals out to seniors through Santa Maria Meals on Wheels. Smith-Meyer said The Lark, an eatery in Santa Barbara, is helping prepare those meals. ∆