Kern County Supervisors voted on Tuesday to launch the Waste Hunger, Not Food program.
The pilot program — funded by grants and made possible through partnerships with local businesses, nonprofits and government agencies — will begin in May.
“The sole objective of this unique program is to rescue and redistribute healthy leftover food, that might have otherwise been wasted, from schools, restaurants and markets to those that are in need,” said Kern County Public Health Director Matt Constantine.
The county is purchasing three refrigerated vehicles with a $191,000 grant from Cal Recycle and they will use a $30,000 grant from Kaiser Foundation to hire drivers for the vehicles through the Bakersfield Homeless Center’s job development program.
They will transport perfectly good extra food from businesses that would normally throw it away and deliver it to distribution points where the public can take it home for free.
The need is critical in Bakersfield and Kern County, Constantine said.
“Unfortunately Bakersfield ranks number one in the nation with the most people in the metropolitan area who cannot afford to buy the food they need,” he said. “Every day 116,000 Kern County residents do not know where their next meal is coming from and one-in-four children go to bed hungry every night in Kern County.”
Add to that the fact that 40 percent of all food in the United States is wasted — thrown in the trash, that Kern County is the number one food producer in the nation and this is a prime location for a program like Waste Hunger, Not Food, Constantine said.
Currently the county is partnering with Brenda Robinson, director of food services for Bakersfield City School District, Maria Coward, of La Costa Mariscos, and Ralph Frugulietti, of Frugatti’s and Food Land markets to provide distribution points for the food.
Supervisors cheered the program and how it was accomplished without dipping into scarce county resources.
“This is a collaboration between private enterprise, volunteer groups and nonprofits,” Supervisor Mick Gleason said, adding he was proud to make the motion to approve the new program.
Anti-potshop activist David Brust, during the public comments to supervisors Tuesday, called for an ethics investigation and censure of Supervisor Leticia Perez.
Perez said Brust — a former county employee and short-term employee for Supervisor David Couch — has waged a “personal campaign against me and my family for half a decade.”
Brust released a folder of public records, texts, e-mails and newspaper reports as proof of his allegations.
He said Perez’s husband Fernando Jara took $5,000 from medical marijuana dispensary owner David Abbasi within a year of Perez voting against a ban on commercial cannabis businesses last fall, pointing to stories published in The Californian in February.
Brust’s information shows meetings for marijuana business interests were held in Perez’s office and with county officials with Jara’s help.
Perez said the work her husband did for Abbasi was in relation to a city of Bakersfield initiative to approve medical marijuana — not a county issue.
And she took the issue to Kern County Counsel Mark Nations prior to voting on the marijuana EIR and was told the relationship was not a conflict of interest.
Nations said any further investigation of the potential conflict of interest should be channeled through the California Fair Political Practices Commission, which oversees violations of elections law by public officials.
The Kern County District Attorney’s office confirmed it has an ongoing investigation into ethics complaints surrounding the vote on commercial cannabis by the Kern County Board of Supervisors.