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Taking a closer look at food insecurity in Kern County

According to the nonprofit Feeding America, nearly a quarter of children in Kern County suffered from food insecurity in 2020.
Posted: 5:24 PM, Feb 15, 2023
Updated: 2023-02-15 21:20:00-05
food pantry (file)

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Data from Kern County's Public Health Department states each night, one out of every five children go to bed hungry.

Late last month, 23ABC’s Keeley Van Middendorp spoke with the Community Action Partnership of Kern’s former Outreach and Advocacy Coordinator James Burger about what their organization had seen and if they had enough resources to combat the problem.

Burger said recent efforts helped those who have become regulars at food banks and new residents struggling to put food on the table.

"We've seen an increase from early in 2021, towards the end of 2021, from about a 30,000 people a month to about 70,000 people a month,” Burger said. "So it's a pretty, pretty dramatic delta between those two numbers. So we're definitely seeing that need out there.”

When it came to who was most affected by food insecurity, Burger said children that are also minorities struggled more than others.

“There's about a 26% food insecurity rate for African Americans, Black residents here, 18% for Latinos,” said Burger. “The overall food insecurity rate talking about 2020 numbers, is 14%. So you can see that those populations are much, much higher than the community average.”

CAPK distributed 22 million pounds of food to residents in 2021, but the need continues to grow.

Feeding America says in 2020 just under 23 percent, or nearly 59,000, children in Kern County suffered from food insecurity. They also reported 84% of kids in Kern were eligible for federal nutrition assistance that year. Looking at the average cost of a meal, data shows it rose from 2.97 in 2017 to 3.19 cents in 2020.

When it comes our older population, the California Department of Aging says in 2020, 18,000, or just over 20.5 percent of Kern County residents 65 years and older were affected by food insecurity.