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COUCH'S CORNER: No one needs to go hungry in Kern County

With the giving season upon us, we will have so many opportunities to give. If you’re like me, sometimes you wonder where our donations actually go. For instance, it’s not unusual to walk up to a cash register at a grocery store and be asked if you want to donate to some cause. This week my staff actually got to follow through the process from beginning to end at Sprouts in Bakersfield, and the discovery was so pleasing that we decided to write a Couch’s Corner about it.

District 4 staff has actually been going to Sprouts and other stores on weekends for some time to help a local food bank glean food for the hungry of Taft and south Kern. Gleaning is the term used for recovering food that no longer has a shelf life but is still good to eat. In the past, it may have been thrown away but with organizations like the Gleaners and Laborers of the Harvest, now this food is being recovered and given to the poor and hungry in our communities.

This past Saturday, several shopping carts full of brown paper bags filled with food labeled “Grab and Give” were included in the gleaned foods. According to Jose Escalante, manager of Bakersfield’s Sprouts store, these “Grab and Give” bags are what is packed whenever a customer at the cash register agrees to donate at Sprouts. On weekends, these bags make it to the Laborers of the Harvest warehouse in Taft. Then, throughout the week, but especially at their “Open Harvest” events on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, these bags, plus all the other gleaned foods, are given away for free to the hungry of Taft.

Shari Rightmer, executive director of LOTH, says, “No one needs to go hungry in Taft. There’s plenty of food for everyone.”

About 350 families participate in the food giveaway weekly, feeding nearly 1,000 family members. Her program is especially unique because in Taft, Shari has empowered the local homeless community she serves to be the volunteer work force at the food bank, creating a visual like no other. In Taft, the homeless are helping to feed the hungry.

A new law, SB 1383, will require that stores recover their food and divert it from the landfills. Credit goes to Sprouts and other stores like Costco, Albertsons and Food Maxx that are already recovering this food to feed the hungry, not because the law says they must, but because their people say they should. As the new law takes effect, all the stores plus schools and any other large generators of food will be looking for outlets like Laborers of the Harvest. At that point, it will become a logistical exercise, getting that much food to where it needs to go.

Shari, who is in the early stages of adding other rural communities such as Arvin to her distribution network, adds, “If we had enough trucks and warehouse space and funding, no one would need to go hungry in Kern County.”

The food is there. The law now requires that it be diverted. Organizations such as Laborers of the Harvest exist that can get the food to those who need it. As we enter this giving season, I encourage you to contribute. Even small amounts to programs like these will add up and help make sure no food goes to waste, and no person goes hungry.

If you have any questions about this or any District 4 matter, don’t hesitate to contact us at 661-868-3680 or at district4@kerncounty.com. Have a safe week.

David Couch represents Kern County’s 4th District.

David Couch represents Kern County’s 4th District.

Coronavirus Cases widget

  • Positive Cases Among Kern Residents: 158,270

  • Deaths: 1,828

  • Recovered and Presumed Recovered Residents: 150,950 

  • Percentage of all cases that are unvaccinated: 92.04

  • Percentage of all hospitalizations that are unvaccinated: 92.62 Updated: 12/3/2021.

  • Source: Kern County Public Health Services Department

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