It's been more than a year since Waste Hunger, Not Food launched, and it's safe to say a lot of food has been rescued in Bakersfield — more than 663,000 pounds of it since September 2018.
Outlying communities have wanted to join in on the good deed as well, but the program wasn't quite ready to expand — it first had to get its boots off the ground locally.
So, Taft decided to take matters into its own hands.
Earlier this summer, Taft City School District recognized the need in its community and realized many individuals could benefit from the Waste Hunger, Not Food program. Randy Rico, director of nutrition services for the district, reached out to the program and said all it took was a little guidance in order to get started.
"We thought, 'Let's give it a shot,' and so far it's been going very well," Rico said.
In just four months, the district has rescued more than 32,000 pounds of food from its six schools, said Michelle Corson, spokeswoman for the Kern County Department of Public Health.
Every school day, children are required to have certain foods on their lunch trays — fruits, vegetables, milk, for example. Whatever food students do not touch or eat they put in containers dedicated for the Waste Hunger, Not Food program. So far the school has been collecting dry and refrigerated items, Rico said.
The district then has a driver go out to each school site and collect the donated food. It is then distributed among four CityServe churches in Taft — First Assembly of God Taft, Templo Agua Viva, St. Andrews Episcopal Church and Calvary Temple Assembly of God.
"The kids were very receptive. Some will walk straight out of the cafeteria line and know what they’re not going to eat and put it in the basket," Rico said. "Some say, 'That’s going to my church later.'"
"The beautiful thing about this is this community rose up and they are rescuing food that would have just been thrown in the trash, which positively impacts the environment and they’re getting the food back into their community," Corson said. "All with very little help ... It speaks to just how incredible the Taft community really is."
Because of this partnership, it has allowed the Waste Hunger, Not Food team to craft a new working model that can be implemented in other outlying communities. Corson said the program will be launching in Wasco in January and is currently in discussions with Shafter.
As Taft City School District continues its collection program, the hope is to keep growing and expanding as much as possible, Rico said. He hopes to collect hot entrees, which can be frozen, and serve them to individuals needing meals and to help smaller school districts get on board with Waste Hunger, Not Food so they can help out in their communities as well.
"The more pounds the better. We don’t have a set goal, we just want to contribute as much as possible," he said.