BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — A lack of access to affordable and fresh food can lead to unhealthy diets and obesity. The first step in tackling this issue is to identify areas where there this lack of access is happening.
In 2022, the Community Action Partnership of Kern contracted with the research company Transforming Local Communities to collect data on food access across Kern County, then use that data to generate a geographic information systems map.
Diana King, president of Transforming Local Communities, believes this will give Kern County the much-needed updated data that will allow local officials to begin implementing solutions.
"We are going to make it more easily available. The GIS mapping is going to be able to show those areas of population density that might not have access of transportation routes as they currently exit, and we are also going to be showing the grocery stores where fresh produce markets, farmers' markets are located within that area, and community gardens are located, and be able to get a picture of where the gaps are, where food is not readily available," said King.
This information is already being used to identify communities in need.
"There are areas - for example, southeast Bakersfield has very, very few grocery stores other than on the perimeter of the area," said King. "So you go into 93304, for example. There's no major grocery store in that area."
23ABC/CAP-K 2023 SENIOR FOOD DRIVE - CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT HOW YOU CAN HELP
While the county and CAP-K continue to work on community solutions, Dr. Nancy Nasrawin has advice for those trying to eat healthy with limited food options.
"So, if there's anything available that's healthy in terms of fresh produce, pick that first. Look at and be comfortable with the nutrition label. I would recommend that with things like cereal and whole grains, try to increase fiber intake and to minimize carbohydrates or added sugars," said Nasrawin. "We know that fiber helps increase satiety [not feeling hungry anymore] and helps keep you full longer. Whenever possible, drink more water, black coffee, black tea. Low-fat dairy is okay. Certainly avoid sugar-sweetened beverages like energy drinks and sodas. Even juices, try to avoid."
As for the data being collected by CAP-K, there are still more plans for the future.
"It's going to really stimulate the development. Several organizations right now are talking about the need or a local food policy council," said King.
In addition to the GIS map, Transforming Local Communities is also researching ways for local organizations to work together in order to more effectively serve Kern County as a whole. King says she is hoping they will be ready to make the data they've collected public at some point this summer.