Jesus Rodriguez feeds America.
Rodriguez, 34, spends most of his days toiling in the fields south of Bakersfield picking grapes, but despite that, cannot afford to always feed his own family — especially in the summer when rising temperatures results in fewer hours worked in the field.
That’s why Rodriguez was so thankful Wednesday when Building Healthy Communities Kern, Community Action Partnership of Kern and the Kern County Library teamed up to host a no-cost Farmers’ Market food giveaway and family movie night at the Arvin Library.
More than 300 residents came out to pick up fresh fruit and vegetables, including tomatoes, potatoes, spinach, kale, fresh nectarines, oranges and more. That’s important, because much of Arvin is considered a “food desert,” where scant options exist for residents to access healthy fruits and vegetables. The alternatives are processed foods from convenience stores and fast food.
“I think it’s great to have an opportunity for the community to have access to fresh foods and vegetables.” said Arvin Mayor Jose Gurrola. “Parts of the city are technically considered food deserts, we have a Vallarta [Supermarket] on one side of the city, but we don’t have enough access to fresh food on the south side of Arvin.”
The night was a success. CAPK distributed more than 11,500 pounds of food in the first hour, said Jaime Orona, CAPK’s food bank manager. That food was a combination of both donated items from local farmers, and also produce purchased through grant money, Orona said.
“There’s a big need here for fresh healthy food,” said Elvira Torentino an 80-year-old woman who rolled up to the farmers market in her wheelchair. “Sometimes we don’t have enough money to buy food, we would like organizers to come more often to distribute more food like this.”
Attendees also got the opportunity to catch a showing of the animated movie Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and learn about healthy drink choices from Kern County Public Health Services educators.
Arvin Mayor, Jose Gurrola said he plans to work with CAPK and the Arvin Library to bring access to fresh healthy food to Arvin more often.