The Santa Barbara County Food Action Network connects, aligns, and activates food system changemakers to develop a robust local food economy, a healthy and just community, and a well-stewarded, resilient foodshed.
What does that mean, and how do we do our work?
We focus on four key areas of our Food System.
Our Food Economy, Our Community, Our Foodshed, and Our Health and Wellness. Within those areas our network works to address 16 specific goals.
We assemble teams that make change happen.
We gather individuals from different areas of the food system to collaborate as teams and affect change directly in their communities.
A localized food system encompasses the closed-loop path of food as it moves from farm to table within the same region, including where it is grown, processed, distributed, consumed, and disposed of.
We facilitate Funding and Crisis Support
Through Resource Sharing, Grant Distribution and Financing Partnerships we get funding and resources to the people who need it most. We activate our network as a Crisis Response solution, bringing people, resources, and funding to bear on immediate challenges.
We model positive adaptation at a local level.
The successes of the network are a prototype for positive food system change — in practice and in policy — across the country. Through listening and collaboration we equitably amplify voices to create that systemic change.
ABOUT THE FOOD ACTION NETWORK
As represented by our favorite foods and food related items. (click to learn more)
CORE OPERATIONS TEAM
Composed of staff and contractors, we are a tight-knit team that expands and adapts as needed.
Shakira Miracle is a system solution designer, stakeholder collaboration facilitator, and social justice and planet advocate who loves engaging with people, listening to their stories, finding common ground, and building trust. When she’s not spending quality time exploring nature with her husband and two boys, you can find Shakira taste testing her favorite fruits at a local farm stand, farmers market, or straight out of the field when not falling in a ditch of said berry field. Learn more about Shakira’s expertise.
Why I love blackberries: When I lived in British Columbia, Canada, blackberries grew wild everywhere. Every summer while walking the dog or pushing my little ones in the stroller, I would pick them along the path and eat them. As the kids got a little older, they’d pick their own blackberries. They’d have constant blackberry stains on their faces, hands, and shoes. I loved it. They’re also low on the glycemic index and have fiber.
A proud first-generation Mexican-American who was born and raised in Phoenix, AZ, Mirella is currently pursuing higher education in Psychology. She and her husband are Marine Corps Veterans, who met while serving, and together they have two wonderful children. Having lived in several different states, they have first-hand experience with the food insecurities that exist in a one-income household. She is so proud to be working with SBCFAN; the welcoming yet mission-oriented force has motivated her to strive toward a well-structured food network within Santa Barbara County.
Why I love beans: my first memory of food is a bowl of beans. They have always been so filling, and brought a sense of “home” wherever life takes me. I ultimately wish I could’ve been more prepared in life by knowing; I would compare ALL beans to my mom’s Frijoles de Oya.
Lisa is a systems-minded creative professional with more than 25 years experience in developing marketing and communication strategies for small businesses and nonprofits. When she’s not puzzling on every available surface in the house she shares with her husband and two grown kids, you can find her at the farmers market trying not to spend all of her allowance. Learn more about Lisa’s expertise.
Why I love blueberries: I fell in love with blueberries (and blackberries, raspberries, huckleberries, basically EVERYberries…) when we lived in the Pacific Northwest, where berries can grow to the size of small houses. That was 20 years ago, and I can still eat them until I have a stomach ache from eating too many. Aren’t they a superfood? I can get behind that.
With a formal background in graphic design, Andrew has 20 years experience in brand development, user experience, and communications design, focusing on usability and beauty. Toting his camera everywhere since age 13, he enjoys editorial photography of people and places, usually with an eye toward a larger story. His portraits aim to capture sincere moments, highlighting the ways we are alike as humans, even if our passions differ. When he’s not taste testing cultural foods while globetrotting with his better half, you can find Andrew chatting up and taking photos of whomever he runs into on the street. Learn more about Andrew’s expertise and find him on Instagram.
Why I love rainbow chard: It’s yummy, colorful, and I’m all about LGBTQ+ Pride.
Core Team demographics: 75% female; 25% Latina, 25% Asian.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
100% of our Board of Directors is directly involved in our regional food system1.
Owner | Dare 2 Dream Farms
Board Chair, SBC Food Action Network
Vice Chair, Route One Farmer’s Market
Member, Lompoc Valley Chamber of Commerce
Megan Raff is deeply rooted in the local food system as the owner/operator of Dare 2 Dream Farms in Lompoc with her partner Jeremy. Leveraging her ground-up expertise, she activates business development, recruiting, and communication skills to shape the Food Action Networks strategic plan, foster board leadership, and drive impactful food systems projects. Megan also serves as Vice Chair of the Route 1 Farmer’s Market Board of Directors, a member of the Lompoc Valley Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, and a key player in the restoration of the local Grange Hall. Beyond the farm and her community engagement, Megan is a homeschool mother and adventure enthusiast currently converting a bus to take her family road schooling. Her love for carrots isn’t just personal—it stems from the joy of watching her children harvest and snack on this garden favorite. Megan Raff is deeply committed to nourishing communities and fostering sustainable local food ecosystems in which the relationship between farmer and eater is forged.
Board Treasurer, SBC Food Action Network
Food is the through line in Amy’s life, from wanting to be a farmer when she grew up, interning at an apricot orchard in Chico, working in restaurants and catering, to a stint with the SBC Vintners’ Association and transitioning to work in a natural food market.
Most recently she was Veggie Rescue’s founding ED and then the Director of the SYV Community Kitchen at St. Mark’s in Los Olivos, where she gained knowledge and support as a member of SBCFAN’s Community Kitchen Working Group. Some of her favorite activities are reading about food and cooking for and eating with family and friends.
Board Secretary, SBC Food Action Network
Rachel Johnson originally hails from Toronto, ON, and (like so many!) found her way to Santa Barbara for graduate school and never left. Transitioning from academia into the non-profit sector, Rachel has amassed over fifteen years of program development, fundraising, capacity-building, and grant management experience in higher education, food systems, museums, K-12 schools, leadership initiatives, and more. Her strengths include strategic planning, storytelling for impact, program development and evaluation, equitable data practices, trust-based philanthropy, and collaborative impact. Rachel’s personal values are rooted in equity and social justice, and she devotes her volunteer and philanthropic life to grassroots causes, systems change, and advocacy. When she’s not working or volunteering, Rachel is training for her next backpacking trip or planning another international mountaineering adventure.
Why I love my tortilla press: When my partner and I got our first authentic cast iron tortilla press, it was a game-changer for our kitchen. Transitioning to more whole, unprocessed foods, and making meals made from scratch together has become a cornerstone of our home life. I could absolutely eat fish tacos every single day of my life and be content with little else – and once you’ve had them with fresh tortillas made from scratch, you’ll never go back!
Associate Director of Development | Food Bank of Santa Barbara County
Laurel has worked since 2014 with the Food Bank of Santa Barbara County. She enjoys working with Food Bank supporters and dabbling in data analytics as the resident quirky Salesforce data nerd. As a single parent of four, she understands many of the hardships encountered by those facing poverty and food insecurity in the Santa Barbara County greater community. She is acutely aware of barriers that working families face while trying to raise the next generation to be healthy, productive and thrive.
Prior to her career with the Foodbank, she spent three years at the American Cancer Society overseeing community engagement and patient services for Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties. During that time she met many families impacted by cancer and witnessed the impact that economic security had on their treatment. For many patients, their treatments meant higher medical bills and being unable to work. Families often faced food insecurity and the threat of homelessness while recovering from illness.
She also serves on the board the Leading for Community Impact Alumni Council.
Owner | Blosser Urban Garden
Alejandra Mahoney is a passionate advocate for equitable access to nutritious food. With over 25 years of experience working in various areas of the food system, she has dedicated her career to ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to participate fully in their local food system as producers, innovators, and consumers.
As the owner of Blosser Urban Garden, Alejandra has created a space where sustainable and organic farming practices are at the forefront. Through her work, she seeks to empower individuals and communities by providing them with the necessary tools and knowledge to grow their own food and make informed choices about what they consume.
Alejandra’s belief in equitable access extends beyond just providing nutritious food. She strives to create an inclusive environment where all people, regardless of their background or socioeconomic status, can actively engage and contribute to the local food system. Her passion for fairness and inclusivity drives her to continuously seek innovative solutions that address the systemic barriers that hinder access to healthy food for many.
With her extensive experience and unwavering dedication, Alejandra Mahoney continues to be a catalyst for positive change in the food system. She not only envisions a future where everyone has equal access to nutritious food but actively works towards making that vision a reality.
1producers, distributors, education, workforce development, policy and regulation, marketing, food waste reduction, food security and retail
Board demographics: 75% female; 25% Latina, 13% bi-racial.
Specialists who extend our core capabilities and provide invaluable insights and services.
Andrew and Lisa Hill co-founded Pharos Creative, a branding firm that helps clients with marketing and communications strategy, design, and photography. First launched in 1996 as a multimedia firm, their focus was on helping organizations and small businesses share their stories. Over the last few decades, they have worked with clients across the globe to clearly identify their audience and create targeted marketing strategies.
Through their work with the Community Environmental Council, Andrew and Lisa learned about the Food Action Plan, a project that immediately appealed to their love of food as it relates to place and passion for helping to expand food access in our region. Together, they designed marketing collateral and a website for the Plan, eventually becoming involved with the early stages of the Network. They continue to play an important role in the strategic direction and development of SBCFAN.
What does a successful Food Action Network look like?
Increased food access, expanded funding for farms, and the Network serving as a model that other communities can emulate to achieve greater food resiliency.
“Santa Barbara County – we love the place and the people. Food is a level playing field in the sense that everyone needs it, but it’s NOT in the sense that everybody doesn’t have equal access to it. This is an opportunity to do really impactful work and use our skills.”
Mercury Press International
Mercury Press International has been creating award-winning content for magazines, newspapers, books, television, and streaming since 1991. Today, owners Nancy Black and Isaac Hernandez focus on crafting moving and inspiring films for their many nonprofit clients, including Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, Community Environmental Council, and SBCFAN.
An early partner of the Network, Nancy and Isaac love that the work we accomplish together is directly fulfilling a promise to create a better world and has local impact – extending to their own neighborhood.
Their skills and talents have helped the Network craft stories that foster conversation around strengthening the local food system. “Every single story is an opportunity to learn about communities doing something awesome. Film gets to your soul… it is a way to empower and uplift people into action. Our hope is that the films we produce for SBCFAN not only inspire our local audience to begin the process of creating this system but become ideas that can be replicated by a wider audience in their own communities.”
What does a successful Food Action Network look like?
The possibility that together we create a closed-looped economically vibrant food system that provides healthy food to all of our community.
“The Network provides resilience for the community we live in and we all eat so securing our food system just seems smart.”
– Nancy Black
“Every single story is an opportunity to learn about communities doing something awesome,” says Nancy Black.
Bridging Voices-Uniendo Voces, LLC
Bridging Voices-Uniendo Voces, LLC provides consulting services, training and professional interpretation, and translation services focused on equity, diversity, inclusion, and language justice. With more 10 years of experience, owner Lena Moran Acereto uses an educational, research based approach with a lens of equity to create inclusive, multilingual spaces where all voices are valued. Through her work with the Community Environmental Council, Bridging Voices cultivated a partnership with SBCFAN, providing interpretation for webinars and supporting the development of a language justice plan for the Network.
“The Network really understands the value of bringing all voices in – the commitment to diversity and inclusion drew me to SBCFAN. As an eater, I am becoming more curious about local food system options and what we can do to ensure that the Santa Barbara community has access to a just, equitable food system.”
What does a successful Food Action Network look like?
Embedding language justice into the culture of the work so that everyone can join the conversation and have a voice at the table.
Katie is a passionate local food and farming advocate, business owner, consultant and community builder with 15 years experience as a trusted resource and strategic partner in building food resilience. Her deep ties to the food system stem from her tendency to spend two too many hours at the farmers market, pull over for anything that resembles a farm stand, and be on a need-to-know basis with everything local food. Learn more about Katie’s expertise.
Why I love garlic: I’m part Italian so I like to think I was born to love garlic. My favorite variety is Purple Stripe. In spring I stock up on fresh garlic and scapes. When a recipe calls for one clove, I add four. My mantra: a head of garlic a day keeps the doctor away – and the vampires at bay.
Economic Development Collaborative
The EDC creates confident, connected and directed business owners, civic leaders, and community partners by providing tools to build pathways for economic development.
A LITTLE HISTORY
FOOD ACTION PLAN ORIGIN…
Our story begins with the Santa Barbara County Food Action Plan, which was published in 2016. It provides a community-driven strategic plan that assesses and provides recommendations about how we as a county grow, distribute, consume, and dispose of food. The 104-page plan is framed around four pillars — investment in our food economy, health and wellness, community, and foodshed — and is a roadmap for food system resilience for generations to come.
It was soon realized that an organization was needed to steward The Plan’s continuous activation. This organization would ensure access to, knowledge of, and shared responsibility for countywide food system resilience building. SBCFAN was launched in fall of 2019 and later successfully received its 501(c)(3) status.
…THEN CAME THE FOOD ACTION NETWORK
Addressing the 16 Food Action Plan Goals in 4 key Areas
HEALTH & WELLNESS
- Allan Hancock College
- Chumash Band of Mission Indians
- Clevr Blends
- Coastal Band of the Chumash Nation
- Foodbank of Santa Barbara County
- North SBC Library System
- Route One Farmers Market
- St. Mark’s-in-the-Valley
- Santa Barbara Certified Farmers Market
- Santa Barbara County Environmental Services Department
- Santa Barbara Middle School Kitchen
- Veggie Rescue
INVEST IN A MORE VIBRANT, EQUITABLE, AND RESILIENT FOOD SYSTEM.