BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Supply chain issues have heavily impacted many communities here within Kern County and many local grocery stores are facing shortages in things such as, fresh produce and meat, which have affected those who are seeking to maintain a healthy diet.
There are various food desert areas where folks can’t just jump in their car and drive five minutes to the nearest grocery store, which can then create a barrier for those who are seeking to implement a healthy diet.
“The thinking is that when it's so inconvenient to go get produce, or produce is not available like it can be with supply chain issues, that people will turn to fast food or other less healthy alternatives and that certainly happens,” said Kiyoshi Tomono at Adventist Health VP Community Partnership.
Fresh produce is usually the section of the grocery store that people shop in when seeking healthier ingredients, but when shortages take place, Tomono said there are other options that still provide nutritional value.
“There are other alternatives, even if you talk to a dietician, frozen and canned can provide a strong amount of nutrients. It is far better to eat that than to eat something that is highly processed.”
He added that oftentimes families of the lower-income community have to face the hardship of selecting fast food options rather than taking the time to buy various ingredients for a full healthy meal.
“There are definitely people in our community right now who tonight will have to make the hard decision of, ‘do I give my kids food, or do I eat, as a parent? Do I get the cheaper alternative of something that I can pick up really quickly or do I eat something healthier?’ That is a legitimate part of the problem. It's not the entire piece of the problem but it is a big piece of the problem, that people can’t always afford or don't always have access to healthier choices,” said Tomono.
Health advisors understand that this is a signature issue here in Kern County and Tomono said that a part of the work they’re doing in health care is to make the choice to eat healthier easier.
That starts with the education of knowing what other options are available in times of need.
The Rising Cost of Food
One of the main factors when it comes to shopping for healthy food is the price. Over the past few years, the cost of almost everything you buy has gone up. 23ABC took an in-depth look at how much the cost of some items has risen and ways you can save.
According to data released in November of 2021 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics steaks have seen the highest price jump annually, costing 24.9-percent more in October than they did a year ago.
Eggs were 11.6-percent more expensive than a year ago. And chicken, often a staple of healthy eating, costs 8.8-percent more.
Cereal was 5-percent more expensive, while baby food prices grew 7.9 percent annually.
How to Save at the Store
Here are some tips from the food blog "Eat This Not That" on how to save at the store right now.
First, find plant-based protein solutions. Some plant-based "ground beef" options like Impossible or Beyond Burger are even cheaper than some of the organic or natural options on shelves right now.
Look for produce elsewhere. When heading to the grocery store, start in the frozen-food section instead. You can likely find all of your favorite fruits and vegetables for your meals that are at a much cheaper price.
Also, try dairy alternatives. Almond and oat milk are popular choices you can easily find at the store that will have a price tag that is sometimes cheaper than your usual go-to milk products.
Finally invest in some reusable items. Try buying reusable paper towels, napkins, and even silicone bags or containers. They may be expensive at first to buy but will save you money in the long run.
What is a Food Desert?
First, the U.S. Department of Agriculture defines a food desert as an area that has a poverty rate greater than or equal to 20-percent.
Additionally, an urban area such as Bakersfield has to have at least 30-percent of its population living more than one mile away from a large grocery store.
The latest data suggests at least 19-million people throughout the country have limited access to a supermarket or grocery store.
Experts share that those living within a food desert, are at an increased risk of obesity and diabetes.