The History and Impact of the SLO Food Bank

The SLO Food Bank has been a driving force in alleviating hunger in San Luis Obispo County for over 30 years. Through their continuous dedication and innovative approaches, they have transformed their efforts to address the pressing issue of food insecurity. In this blog, we will explore how the SLO Food Bank has evolved its initiatives to alleviate hunger.

Humble Beginnings

When the SLO Food Bank opened on Valentine’s Day in 1989, it consisted of a 4,000 square-foot warehouse space in Paso Robles with a Knudsen ice cream truck in the back acting as its only cold storage and a second truck to use for deliveries. By the end of that year, the organization was serving 7,000 households per quarter at 17 food distribution sites throughout the county. Besides having an executive director, office, and warehouse manager, the organization was nearly 100% volunteer-run.

Newspaper article from 1989.

Expansion and Increased Impact

Today, 30 years later, we operate out of a new, centrally-located 20,000-square-foot facility in San Luis Obispo, 15% of which is refrigerator and freezer space. We distribute food to 14,000 households per month at 60 public distribution sites and through our network of 78 agency partners, serving every community in the county. We provide specific programs, like summer breakfasts for children and farmers’ markets for seniors, which are tailored to serve our county’s most vulnerable populations. Our gleaning program harvests 250,000 lbs of produce from local growers each year. This year our operation will rely on 27 paid staff, a fleet of 11 trucks, and the help of over 3,500 volunteers to increase food security for individuals and families in San Luis Obispo County.

Newspaper article from 1990.

A Community Effort

The SLO Food Bank started from humble beginnings but was fueled by a strong belief: that no one in our county should go hungry. While the people involved, scale, and location of the SLO Food Bank has changed over time that original vision has remained constant. Over the past 30 years, every time our leaders secured funding, every time a volunteer handed a bag of food to someone at a distribution, and every time a church group organized a food drive they were getting closer to realizing that vision.

These combined efforts over time have resulted in a powerful infrastructure and network that is available for all SLO County residents in times of need, both today and into the future.

As we look back on the past 30 years of serving our community, the current team at the SLO Food Bank wants to thank those who have contributed to the organization and its efforts in the community.

Onward to the next 30 years!

– By Andrea Keisler, Director of Programs