Mental health issues arise due to food insecurity in Santa Barbara County.

The cost of living in Santa Barbara County is becoming increasingly expensive, with rising prices for both rent and food. As a result, approximately 45,000 people in the county, or 10% of the population, are struggling with food insecurity. Alanie Rosell, now a social media coordinator for the Santa Barbara County Food Bank, experienced food insecurity while attending UCSB. To make ends meet, she had to ration her food, resulting in negative physical and mental health effects.

Unfortunately, Rosell’s experience is not unique. Katie Maynard, UCSB’s food security and basic needs spokeswoman, found that 43% of UCSB undergraduates are currently experiencing food insecurity. This insecurity can lead to increased anxiety and stress, further exacerbating the problem. However, efforts have been made to address this issue. UCSB’s Food Security and Basic Needs Task Force has implemented a Cal Fresh program that provides students up to $281 per month and access to grocery store benefits to help them meet their basic needs.

Thankfully, the stigma surrounding the use of food stamps and other benefits is starting to fade. Peer support has become more common, with students sharing information about food pantries and Cal Fresh with one another. Hannah Webster, Santa Barbara County Food Bank Grants and Development Specialist, works with several organizations to help alleviate hunger in the county. Working together, it is hoped that these efforts will help to reduce food insecurity and improve the overall well-being of Santa Barbara County’s residents.

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