Kern Food Policy

Tulare County Regional Food Desert Forum

Thursday, Nov 6, 2014

Members of the Kern Food Policy Council were in attendance at the Tulare County Regional Food Desert Forum in Tulare, California on November 5, 2014.  The forum focused on accessing healthy foods and was sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and the Tulare County Health and Human Services Agency.  Jill Egland, United Way of Kern, Margaret Johns, Cooperative Extension Kern County, Brady Bernhart, Community Action Partnership of Kern and Dr. Avtar Nijjer-Sidhu of Kern County Public Health Services were in attendance.    


Keri Bailey, Vice President for Government Relations at the California Grocers Association presented the grocers perspective.  Eighty percent of their membership is made up of grocers with 12 or fewer stores.  She spoke about the trend of dry goods stores adding grocery to get people in the door.  Small grocers are also filling a void left behind from the bigger chain stores leaving neighborhoods they deem as not profitable.  She focused on key factors used to determine the location of new stores, including growth, daily traffic, income diversity and room for upward mobility.  Apparently 18 different regulatory bodies inspect various aspects of grocery retail.  Until recently, a California moratorium on new WIC vendors and associated requirement to accept SNAP has meant that newer stores in low income areas may temporarily lose up to 70% of their customer base.  This has negative impacts to neighborhoods still waiting for stores to be considered and built.  Strict enforcement of stocking requirements has lead to a 200% increase in decertification for WIC vendors. 

Sergio Cuellar, Community Engagement Coordinator at the Center for Regional Change, UC Davis presented the Regional Opportunity Index (ROI).  The ROI references dozens of social, environmental and economic indicators to arrive at a need based index that is shown in map format.  Needless to say, large parts of the San Joaquin Valley are in bad shape according to this index.  Take a look at the Regional Opportunity Index.

Don Bergman, President of Make Someone Happy-Produce On The Go (Tulare) described how their non-profit started and how it delivers produce to schools and low income neighborhoods using a large truck.  He explained the budget and staffing challenges associated with keeping a class A driver on staff to operate the donated refrigeration truck.  One major requirement like this can be a real burden for long term budgeting.

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