Bakersfield has one of the nation's highest rates of hunger, but Walmart is giving residents a tangible opportunity to pull it down.
There are two weeks remaining in the company's online competition, which allows people to vote for particular cities to receive funding that will benefit hunger relief.
Walmart will donate $1 million to the area with the most votes and an additional $100,000 to five runners-up, spokeswoman Amelia Neufeld said. The contest began last month and runs through Dec. 31.
As of Thursday afternoon, Bakersfield was No. 15 on the list with 1,419 supporters -- about 1,700 away from the money-drawing range.
Fresno is currently in first place with more than 20,000 votes, followed by Grand Rapids, Mich., and San Antonio, Texas.
Local nonprofit organizations, including the Community Action Partnership of Kern and United Way of Kern County, plan to host a rally Tuesday to encourage people in Bakersfield to visit the campaign website and vote for the area.
"It's such an easy thing to do," said Ian Anderson, program manager of the Community Action Partnership food bank. "To fundraise a million dollars is hard. This is just a click."
Figures show that Kern County could use the financial assistance. Of the 100 largest metropolitan statistical areas in the country, Bakersfield had the second-highest rate of food hardship in 2008-09, according to Food Research and Action Center data.
"Some of the people seeking help right now have never had to ask for help before," local United Way President Della Hodson said. "It's really an indication of how many people in this community are just a crisis away from being hungry, or even homeless.
"Anything that is going to help us correct a problem like this is certainly worth going after."
If Bakersfield finishes among the top six cities, Walmart will contact local leaders to determine how the money would be best used to make a sustained impact in the fight against hunger.
"It's not about what organization ends up receiving the money -- it's about getting it here to the community," Hodson said. "It's exciting to see the community come together around something like this."