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Kern County and CalFresh are expanding food access for lower-income community members

The Kern County Board of Supervisors' decision will help two different kinds of seniors; both those on SSI and those about to graduate from college.
Bakersfield Senior Center
Posted at 5:57 PM, Oct 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-27 21:16:53-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — For some residents in Kern County, money for groceries, or just having the groceries themselves, can mean the difference between hunger and health. A recent Kern County Board of Supervisors’ decision is going to enhance how food resources are provided and make it easier for those in need to access them.

The agreement extends food resources in Kern, and is reaching out primarily to two different types of seniors: older adults and graduating college students. Supervisors approved the agreement extending the CalFresh Healthy Living Education Program from one year to three years, until the end of September in 2025.

The expansion program, which was put in place to help Kern County senior citizens and others who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), a group of people who were disqualified from getting food resources just three years ago.

Martin Reynoso, Aging Adult Services Planner for Kern County, says people on fixed incomes sometimes have to make very difficult choices about how they have to spend the resources they have. Many are forced to choose between medicine and food.

Reynoso also recognizes the social role regular county-based food distribution can play for seniors and disabled people, who may often feel isolated or cut off from the community.

“We operate our CalFresh Healthy Living Program mostly in lower-income areas of the county, so seniors can go to the locations where we provide services,” said Reynoso. “They can join with other seniors, socialize, get a chance to talk about things that happen in their community.”

CalFresh nutrition locations are spread across Kern, with five locations in Bakersfield, and fifteen locations total in the county.

“That can make a big difference in life for someone that’s lower-income,” said Reynoso. “They are able to get more nutritious food, more variety, more produce. Things that will help them lead stronger and healthier lives.”

Kern County Aging Adult Services has a complete list of senior nutrition centers in the county on their website.

Looking on the younger side of the spectrum, Bakersfield College is currently holding CalFresh Outreach Week on campus.

Food distribution on campus at BC is nothing new. The Renegade Pantry has been helping students access healthy food since 2009. The pantry currently offers on-campus food distribution four days a week.

Caitlin Davidson, Program Manager for Basic Needs at BC, explains the goal of the Renegade Pantry and the reason for teaming up with CalFresh to feed more college students.

“To go to class and not have to think about how are they going to put food on the table tonight or if they have to skip a meal, we know will enable them to be more successful in their studies,” said Davidson, adding, “We know that to go to class and be in a learning environment, you have to have a belly full of food.”

While the Renegade Pantry is open to anyone enrolled in at least one half unit at BC, the CalFresh program is directed specifically at students between the ages of 18 and 49 who are enrolled part time and working part time, or are enrolled in a program that provides on-the-job training.