Kern County institutions help battle food insecurity

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - 43,000 U.S college students responded to one of the largest national food insecurity survey assessments in 2017, including many college students here in California.

23ABC spoke to students in Kern County Thursday to find out how they are dealing with food insecurity, what it is and how institutions in the community are supporting students through hunger.

Bakersfield College students talk to their student government president Dezi Vonmanos about the issues they deal with every day, "I'm hungry I want to go get something to eat but either it's financial situation that they just can't run off campus and go get something or even just get something on campus," Vonmanos said.

Along with paying for college education students in Kern County are also dealing with a cost that impacts them on the daily and it's the cost for part of their survival.

Wisconsin HOPE Lab surveyed a total of 43,000 students at 66 colleges and universities across the U.S and found that in 2017 just within the U.C. system and CSU system an average of 42 percent of students faced food insecurity, meaning students didn't have access to sufficient or affordable nutritious food.

23ABC asked sophomore Bakersfield College student, Karla Garcia what about asking for food assistance makes students uncomfortable.

"I don't need to sign up, I don't want to provide information of myself I don't want anyone to know my situation," Garcia said.

To alleviate food insecurity, Bakersfield College Renegade Pantry Program keeps student information confidential and supplies grocery distribution bags every three weeks.

Since 2016 it served groceries to students 944 times,  provided daily bread over 6 thousand times and hygiene services 262 times, averaging support for nearly 400 students and that's not all the pantry is there for, "Some clothing for an interview or if they have another business occasion that they need help with we are here to provide that," one Renegade Pantry volunteer said.

The pantry also provides school supplies and baby food. The program solely depends on community donations, and staff members opt in  paycheck deductions to keep the pantry stocked at all times and students need very little to qualify for assistance, "You have to be enrolled in point five units here at Bakersfield college." Vonmanos said, in order to insure there is not a need versus take problem.

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