Volunteers in Riverside spent Saturday boxing up and shipping thousands of pounds of food to needy families across the region.
The effort is part of the “Million Meals” campaign sponsored by Second Harvest Food Bank and Inland Empire Rotary Clubs.
Inside the Second Harvest Food Bank warehouse, dozens of volunteers furiously pack heaps of canned and dried food into boxes, which are stacked, wrapped in cellophane and lined up for pickup by organizations from across Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.
The food was collected during a month long Rotary Club drive. Tracylyn Sharrit, the food bank's development director, says food demand in the Inland region is up 30 percent from just a few years ago.
“The Inland Empire has the fourth highest food insecurity rate in the nation by metro area,” said Sharrit. “Food insecurity means that a family or a person does not have the capability to provide three meals a day to their family or selves.”
Sharrit, like a lot of Californians this week, is also dealing with fuel insecurity.
“Fuel is essentially the blood of the origination," she said. "Without it, we can’t go pick up all the food we distribute. We have 8 semi-trucks and 18 tractor trailers.”
Fuel eats about 10 percent of the food bank’s budget. But this week, Sharitt caught a break: a $100,000 grant she applied for from the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians for fuel and other expenses was approved.
“That’s about half of what our fuel costs are this year so that is extremely generous and essential funding for us to keep moving the food out to the community,” said Sharrit.
But if you need information about where to access a food pantry in your area, just dial 2-1-1. That’ll connect you with a 24-hour health and human services hotline.