Kern County Food Insecurity Top In State

A new study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture about food insecurity confirms what local food distribution sites have already known for quite some time.

The study estimated 85.1 percent of American households were food secure throughout the entire year in 2011, meaning that they had access at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members.

The remaining households (14.9 percent) were food insecure at least some time during the year, including 5.7 percent with very low food security, meaning that the food intake of one or more household members was reduced and their eating patterns were disrupted at times during the year because the household lacked money and other resources for food.

According to the Community Action Partnership, Kern County is at the top of the food insecurity list in California. As the need continues to grow, the type of people looking for help has changed over the last year.

"Food insecurity in Kern County has significantly grown, said Ian Anderson of the Community Action Partnership.

Food experts say, basically, food insecurity is the lack of health nutritious food.

"There has been several time within the last month where all I have eaten was Top Ramen," said Steve Rynerson.

Every Thursday, Sunshine Church at 515 Roberts Lane gives away food to the needy.

"People in this area, they have no other way to feed themselves. We see a lot of working people having a difficult time making ends meet. They only have so much income or they have fallen on hard times. That's what we are here for, to help," said Chip Carroll, pastor of Sunshine Church

Not everybody looking for help may be the average person someone would expect. The church, as well as the food bank are seeing more of the working poor.

"There tends to be a stereotype that people who use the food bank services are either, homeless, drug attics, burnouts. But the reality, most of who we are seeing are people that have jobs. Maybe they have a house or car, but that's all they have," said Anderson

Evans is employed. However he takes his family to the Oildale church once a month for food giveaway.

"It helps us out between paychecks, during the hard spell. We appreciate what the Sunshine Church does for us and the community," said Evans.

The church buys the food from the Community Action Partnership Food Bank at a reduced cost and then gives it away to the needy.

"When we first started our food ministry we were giving away 50, 60 bags of food per week, now we are up to 160 to 200 bags of food," said Carroll.

The food bank is also feeling the pinch. Last year it fed 450,000 people and is well on the way to surpassing that number.

"And the year is not even over yet. We are seeing on average about 10,000 people per month throughout the county," said Anderson.

To make things worse, according to Anderson, federal funding for the food bank has decreased. So the church as well as the food bank will have to rely more on the community for support.

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