Healthy Food Pantry - Roberto's Story

Editor’s Note:

SB ACT’s work is collaborative in nature. Due to this, SB ACT sets aside time to highlight our partners’ work to solve systemic issues of poverty, health, and more. It takes more than one organization to make this happen. This week we’re highlighting Roberto Plascencia, Program Coordinator for FoodBank SB County’s Healthy Community Pantry hosted monthly on the Westside. The FoodBank, SB ACT’s Westside Health Collaborative, and the involvement of numerous partners make this event a reality for families on the Westside.

My name is Roberto Plasencia and I am a Program Coordinator for the FoodBank of Santa Barbara. I help coordinate a program called the “Healthy Food Pantry” that takes place at Harding University Partnership Schools. The Healthy Food Pantry is a once a month pantry with the goal of providing low-income families on the Westside of Santa Barbara with healthy food at no cost. The Healthy Food Pantry also provides information on local resources such as legal aid, disaster awareness information, bicycle safety tips, and many other resources, depending on the month. Some medical assistance is also delivered, covering services such as diabetes screening, blood pressure checks, flu shots, fluoride for the kids, and much more. The Healthy Food Pantry is held every fourth Tuesday of the month at Harding from 4 to 6 PM. I have been the coordinator of this pantry since its inception in 2016 and I am proud to say that I have not missed one pantry since. It brings me great joy to have a small part in this event every month.

Roberto Plasencia, Trinity Episcopal Church volunteer Marlene Carroll, and Westmont intern Allie Klein at the Healthy Food Pantry

Roberto Plasencia, Trinity Episcopal Church volunteer Marlene Carroll, and Westmont intern Allie Klein at the Healthy Food Pantry

I always look forward to seeing the same families that have been coming since the beginning, as well as seeing new families come in and taking advantage of the resources being offered to them. It is always a joy to see them leave with bags full of healthy food. Being of Latino descent, I am very familiar with the delicious but mostly unhealthy cuisine that Latino families are accustomed to cooking. Being a part of providing these families with healthy alternatives makes me appreciate the FoodBank and the people who help put the Pantry together. Growing up in a low-income community, I am well-aware of the obstacles that these families face everyday. At a young age, my grandmother taught me to always give back. She explained to me that what we had wasn’t much but it was more than some people and to always be thankful. We would take family road trips to Mexico in the summers and I remember taking suitcases full of clothes/shoes as well as cases of canned foods to hand out. I was very young and I would see the smiles on the faces of kids as well as adults when I handed them food/clothing and it gave me a feeling that I will never be able to explain. I am blessed to have the opportunity to help in this very small way.

SB ACT is deeply grateful to the FoodBank of SB County for all their work in starting and running the monthly Healthy Community Pantry. SB ACT staff support the FoodBank and Roberto at Harding in any way we can, as one of SB ACT’s highest priorities is ensuring the continued success of their programming on the Westside. We are thrilled to call them a partner in the larger work in the community of the Westside Health Collaborative.