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County, others to feed the hungry with food that would otherwise go to waste

KBAK/KBFX photo

The Kern County Department of Public Health Services is teaming up with local restaurants, schools and grocery stores to help fight hunger through a new initiative called "Waste Hunger, Not Food."

According to the department, 40 percent of food across the nation is thrown out every day, yet one in four children goes to bed hungry.

"Bakersfield ranks No. 1 in the nation in a metropolitan area with the most people who cannot afford to buy the food that they need," said Public Health Director Matt Constantine.

The plan is to save unused food that would otherwise go in the trash and redistribute it safely to hungry community members.

"I don't know how many times we have gone to a catering, and you have food left over, might feed 25-50 people, we would like to pick up the phone and say, 'I've got this food, can anyone come get it?' And we couldn't do that. This gives us the opportunity to be able to do that," said Ralph Fruguglietti, owner of Frugatti's.

Fruguglietti said food handlers don't give away unused food, because they could be held liable.

"(Public Health has) taken that away, because they say, 'As soon as you hand us the food, it's off your hands.' It goes in a refrigerated truck, which is going to go in a refrigerated walk-in, and then it's going to be distributed accordingly, kept at the right temperature. The things that are happening in the restaurant world are happening through this program," said Fruguglietti.

Public Health will use $191,000 in grant money administered through Cal Recycle to purchase three refrigerated trucks.

Another $30,000 from Kaiser Permanente will help pay for the drivers, who will be employed through the homeless shelter.

The job, Bakersfield Homeless Center CEO Louis Gill, said will go to three deserving individuals.

"We want them to move on. We want them to get that next job, and so this is going to be an opportunity within the organization," said Gill.

Starting in May, drivers will pick up unused food from La Costa, Frugatti's, Foodland Market, 11-C's Market, Chavez School, Cato Middle School and Fletcher Elementary School.

Public Health anticipates the program to start in late May. They plan on making a map that shows locations where food will be available for those in need.

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