By Kevin Drabinski, CEO
Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County
Every corner of our county has a story to tell; its claim to some extraordinary event or movement. Paso Robles has many highlights from its historic past. One highlight that it can certainly be proud of is its distinction as the birthplace of the Food Bank Coalition, which now serves all of San Luis Obispo County. Inspired in part by its rural setting, Paso Robles has long been populated by independent people who see that a community thrives when it cares for a neighbor until they can get back on their feet.
Back in 1989, Paso Robles was where a small cadre of volunteers formalized efforts to ensure vulnerable populations, especially children and seniors, had reliable access to healthy and nutritious food.
From these early chapters, the Food Bank extended its reach, and today distributions take place in communities from San Miguel to Nipomo, and San Simeon to California Valley. Last year alone, 5 million pounds of food was distributed throughout the county, with 40 percent of it going to children and another 20 percent to seniors. Over half of the food distributed was fresh produce, which helps advance vital public health outcomes. Specialized programming, like farmer’s markets for children, shares the message of nutrition to up-and-coming generations. If one were to look for a distinctive, present-day feature of the Food Bank, it would have to be the home-grown attitude that says, “We take care of our own.”
That same Paso spirit lives on in the care extended from the 4,700 volunteers who helped out last year in the Food Bank’s GleanSLO program, provided nutrition education and outreach and many hours at the operations warehouse.  That spirit also lives on in the almost 90 nonprofits in the county who find the Food Bank an economically viable way to source wholesome, nutritious food for their own distributions.
This coalition effort and the Paso Robles spirit enable the Food Bank to reach 14,000 households and 30,000 individuals every month. Paso Robles is a “can-do” community, brimming with neighbors who are proud of their independence. Thanks to that first impetus, the Food Bank carries on the original founding ideals. Only now, it’s not just Paso Robles, it’s a whole county who is able to show, “We take care of our own.”