Local News

Monday, Sep 16 2013 04:11 PM

'First Look': Local council discusses food insecurity in Kern

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    Chris Stille and Jill Egland from the Kern Food Policy Council talk with Californian editorial page editor Robert Price about hunger and food instability on "First Look with Scott Cox."

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BY LAURA LIERA Californian staff writer lliera@bakersfield.com

Kern County is the second largest agricultural producer among metropolitan areas in the country. Yet it's ranked No. 1 in food insecurity.

That irony led local community members to form the Kern Food Policy Council, which looks at coordinating sectors in the food system, launching support programs and services, and creating community engagement advocacy.

"When we first got started, our goal was to end hunger in 10 years but as we started looking deeper into the issue, we realized there is a tangle of issues that need to be unraveled one by one in order to get to our goal," said Jill Egland, vice president of community impact at United Way of Kern County.

Egland said Monday on "First Look with Scott Cox" that food insecurity is the inability to get food needed to be healthy.

The council has 18 members. Chris Stille said joining the council was an eye-opener.

"Just going around our community and seeing how people live drove me to be a part of the council because people need to see how their neighbors are really living," Stille said.

Egland said she's seeing a trend among people who go to food banks: They're not getting back on their feet.

"We all have our ups and downs in our lives and the food bank is there for assistance if you need help getting through a month or two, but our community is not financially stable to get through on their own," Egland said.

Food insecurity isn't just happening in Bakersfield. The council will show "A Place at the Table," a documentary about food insecurity around the country. A panel discussion will follow. The documentary will be shown at 6 p.m. Sept. 26 at Maya Cinemas. Seating is limited; call 834-1820 for availability.

So how can you help end food insecurity in Kern? Cans of fruit swimming in heavy syrup won't end food insecurity.

"If you're going to donate food, give nutritional food, not the cheap mac and cheese stuff that then increases the high obesity problem our county leads in as well," Egland said.

Rice and beans are the best donations, Egland said. She also noted that food banks accept more than canned food. Many food banks have cooling and freezing facilities for frozen vegetables, poultry, meat and vegetables.

Donating food is not the only way you can help.

"Any place you see an opening to volunteer where your skills are needed, do it because that is how you will help prevent the problem from getting bigger," Egland said.


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