Feeding Kern County

The state of food availability, access and affordability in the breadbasket of the world

Tackling the interconnected issues of food insecurity, access to food and health outcomes in Kern County is vital for the well-being and health of the community. It requires a comprehensive and well-rounded approach, which includes implementing policy changes, raising community awareness and supporting initiatives focused on making nutritious food more available.

Addressing food insecurity is not merely a moral duty; it’s also essential for societal welfare and public health. A multifaceted approach is needed to alleviate the related health and economic hardships and to establish healthier and more equal communities, emphasizing the urgency for swift and sustained solutions.

GIS Map: Identify Food Insecure Locations in Kern

Geographic Information System (GIS) Map

Introduction to the GIS Map & How to Use It

Welcome to our GIS Map feature! If you’re seeking resources close to you, our interactive map is here to guide you. Whether you’re looking for locally grown foods from schools, food banks, or distribution centers, our map provides all the details. It showcases grocery stores, pantry locations, WIC sites and even bus routes for your convenience.

Use the map below to locate essential resources and to help make fair community investments. It can also be a valuable tool in shaping future programs and policies for our community. Dive in and explore!

Critical Data and Statistics

Food insecurity in Kern County leads to health issues. Kids as young as 11 are facing pre-diabetes. Families without steady food access often choose unhealthy options, causing poor nutrition and obesity. Many kids now prefer junk food over healthier choices.

Kern County Facts

  • As of 2022, Kern out-performed Fresno as the largest agricultural-producing county in the United States.
  • As of 2020, 14.3% of adults in Kern County were food insecure, compared to 10.5% nationwide, and 9.1% in California.
  • As of 2020, 22.8% of Kern children lived in food insecurity.

The Realities of Living in a Food Swamp

Bakersfield holds the grim title of being the “hungriest metropolitan area in the United States.” Yet, paradoxically, data indicates a high prevalence of obesity among residents:

  • A staggering 78% of Kern County adults are overweight or obese.
  • As of 2020, almost half (44.9%) of the 5th graders in Kern County were either overweight or obese. In a further twist of irony, 22.8% of children in the county are food insecure. The juxtaposition of these statistics suggests a potential link between food insecurity and obesity.

Food Insecurity in the County is on the Rise

During the COVID-19 pandemic more food resources were made available to food-insecure communities, and more organizations in Kern County were empowered to distribute to communities in need. However, that didn’t last long. When special food programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program’s (SNAP) emergency allotments ended, many people in Kern County who needed help were left insecure. Now many local agencies are tirelessly working to help bridge the gap.

The Negative Impacts of Food Insecurity

Food insecurity is consistently linked to negative health outcomes and identified as a crucial determinant of health, posing substantial burdens on individual and societal well-being. 

The ramifications of food insecurity extend to various age groups, each facing unique health challenges and its mitigation is paramount to alleviate healthcare burdens and improve quality of life.

Health Implications

Food insecurity is intricately linked to a plethora of health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, depression and many others, affecting both mental and physical aspects of health. It contributes to diminished nutrient intake and quality of life across all age categories.

Economic Consequences

In economic terms, the detrimental effects of marginal food insecurity on nutrient intake for seniors are equivalent to a $15,000 reduction in income, illustrating the profound economic implications food insecurity can have on an individual’s ability to access nutritious food.

Assessing the Relationship with Obesity

The connection between obesity and food insecurity is still unclear, even though there’s considerable evidence showing they’re related. It might seem contradictory, but understanding how food insecurity and obesity can occur together is vital for developing public health measures. Obesity, a serious health concern and a modern-day epidemic is not just the result of poor diet or genetic issues but is also linked to various social and environmental factors. More in-depth exploration of this topic is crucial to develop informed and effective health policies and interventions, aimed at addressing both issues concurrently.

Challenges in Food Availability: Food Deserts and Food Swamps

Both food deserts and food swamps represent significant public health challenges, as they can contribute to poor dietary habits and related health problems, particularly in low-income communities. Addressing the issues presented by food deserts and food swamps requires multifaceted approaches, including improving access to healthy food options, community education about nutrition and regulatory measures to manage the density of unhealthy food outlets.

Food Deserts

A food desert is a geographic area where residents have limited access to affordable and nutritious food options, typically due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets and healthy food providers. People living in food deserts might have to travel considerable distances to purchase healthy food options, and as a result, they may rely more heavily on convenience stores and fast-food restaurants.

Food Swamps

A food swamp is an area where there is an abundance of fast-food restaurants, convenience stores and other outlets selling unhealthy, highly processed and high-calorie foods, often with few to no options for purchasing healthy, nutritious food. The term "swamp" implies an over-saturation of such food options, which can make it harder for people to make healthy food choices, even if there are also sources of healthier foods available in the area.

Both concepts deal with the unavailability or lack of access to nutritious food, leading to a higher reliance on processed, high-calorie and low-nutrient foods, which can contribute to various health issues like obesity, diabetes and other diet-related diseases.

The Implications

Although Bakersfield is the “hungriest metropolitan area in the United States,” 78% of adults in Kern County are overweight or obese.

In 2020, 44.9% of 5th graders (10-year-olds) in Kern County were overweight or obese—yet 22.8% of Kern’s children are food insecure.

The Results

Although Bakersfield is the “hungriest metropolitan area in the United States,” 78% of adults in Kern County are overweight or obese.

In 2020, 44.9% of 5th graders (10-year-olds) in Kern County were overweight or obese—yet 22.8% of Kern’s children are food insecure.

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