Between inflation and the pandemic, this Inland Empire food bank is helping families get enough to eat

Bloomington, Calif. (KABC) — Every Saturday morning, a line of cars forms outside Vida Life Ministries in Bloomington. Inside these cars are families from all across the Inland Empire that have come to collect food.

Between sky-high inflation and economic problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for a service like this is greater than ever.

“We have quadrupled our distribution, it has increased tremendously,” said Carlos Medina, the founder of Vida Life Ministries.

Luis Madrigal, from Rialto, said the help “means a lot.”

“Because the economy is really hard right now,” Madrigal said.

Food prices have jumped nearly 12% in the Inland Empire over the past year, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Both proteins and fruits and vegetables are up 9%, dairy products are up 12%, and breads are up 21%.

These increasing prices aren’t helping with food insecurity in the area.

According to the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey data collected between June and September, 2022, about 13% of families in the Inland Empire said they didn’t have enough food to eat in the last week. Nationally, it was about 11.5%.

The same survey also found that in 37% of households in the Inland Empire, children received some kind of food assistance in the last week. Nationally, it was about 31%.

But these numbers aren’t new. Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap Study released this year estimated that as of 2020, about 1 in 10 people in the Inland Empire were food insecure. The same study found that about 1 in 6 children in the Inland Empire were food insecure.

Medina said he started giving food away out of his garage back in 2009.

“The families came to us, we just started helping them, that family told another family, that family told another family,” he said.

Now, they help thousands of families. Some drive for nearly an hour to get here.

“The door doesn’t open until 8, and people get here at 4 and 5 in the morning, so they’re waiting all this time, from Victorville, just waiting for the door to open,” Medina said.

“Their refrigerators are empty because they can’t afford food, because food is very expensive,” he said.

Some of the volunteers, like Maria Calderon from Fontana, are people who used to line up for food.

“I used to be one of the people who came through the line to pick up food, then after that I started helping others,” Calderon said.

Medina said all of the food they distribute is donated.

“My two boys, Carlos and Chris, my wife and I, Grace, We’re just a family serving other families,” he said.

If you would like to help, visit the Vida Life Ministries website here.

Grace Manthey contributed to this story.

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