Riverside, California (CNN) – For 17 years, Anna Doran has worked full time as a travel agent. At the end of last year, he lost his job, shortly before he saw the price of eggs rise to $7.99 per dozen, and the price of one avocado rise to $2.99 at his local grocery store. In June, filling the gas tank cost him $94, up from $50 last year.
Turnover receives unemployment benefits and works part-time as a caregiver for a nursing home resident. To make ends meet, she was also selling her own gold jewelry and collecting aluminum cans for recycling for extra cash.
He’s one of many people doing what they can to get going in Riverside, California, part of the region known as the Inland Empire, where an annual inflation rate of 9.4% was recorded in May, one of the lowest highs in the United States. country. The average rate of inflation across all metropolitan areas in the United States, according to the Consumer Price Index of the Department of Labor, was 8.6% in May.
One of the major factors contributing to high inflation in the Inland Empire is population growth during the pandemic. People from the big cities have moved to relatively affordable neighboring counties like Riverside and San Bernardino. This stimulated demand for goods and services in a region that was not caught up in supply.
In California, where the average price of gasoline was already the highest in the country, the region’s massive increase in food and fuel prices has prompted residents like Duran, along with organizations trying to help residents like her, to find new ways to end up meeting.
Cut expenses and find extra money
“I don’t buy chicken anymore. I don’t buy meat anymore. I just eat tuna,” Doran told CNN.
Although the price of gasoline has fallen slightly in the past month, the average cost of a gallon of regular gasoline in Riverside on July 25 was still more than $5.60, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA). The cost of food and petrol forced her to cut back. Gone are trips to the mall to hang out or cool off. You run errands over the phone, whenever possible, rather than going to a store or other location.
He also started collecting recyclables to hand over for extra money. Doran said he gets a better deal from the recycling center if he drops it on Sunday. You get $1.37 for a pound of recyclables, which makes aluminum cans the most valuable because they weigh more than plastic.
Doran also sold some gold jewelry that he bought in better times.
“I’m thinking about the hard work I did to buy myself something I deserve, and now other obstacles have arisen, I have other priorities,” he said.
Buy discount food items near the expiration date
While Doran needs to be close to home to save on fuel costs, Riverside resident Lily Yu doesn’t mind driving her hybrid car 70 miles to Palmdale, California, in search of discounted groceries.
A group of Vallarta Supermarkets has partnered with Flashfood, an app that offers a list of foods that are nearing their expiration date at deep discounts. Although Flashfood has entered into a long-running partnership with grocery stores in Canada and parts of the United States, the company debuted in California in early June.
Flashfood contacted Yu, a social media content creator, to become a brand ambassador. Through a sign language interpreter, Yu told CNN that he often buys chicken, hummus, bread and other things at 50% off, simply because it’s near the expiration date.
Food that goes to landfill can now be saved and sold to bargain shoppers, Flashfood CEO Josh Domingues says.
“We have buyers who save $5,000 to $10,000 a year on their purchases. We have stories of people buying coolers to put in their basement because they save a lot of money on things like meat, and they put them in the fridge,” Dominic said.
In addition to saving money, Yu said the app also helps him reduce food waste.
“There isn’t a lot of food going to garbage and landfills. So I can help the climate and save money.”
Food banks rely on neighbors
Every Wednesday morning, Doran goes to the Fellowship of the Central Christian Community in Riverside to obtain food donated by Feeding America Riverside San Bernardino.
“We get frozen meat and some veggies,” Doran said. “But I think lately it’s been really hard for them.”
The food bank’s Inland Empire branch told CNN that in the past year, several grocery store partners chose not to drive, or withdrew their donation pledge due to restrictions at their own chain of stores.
This poses a level of uncertainty for the organization, as 90% of the food in its warehouses is typically donated, not purchased.
To fill a potential shortfall in donations, Feeding America Riverside San Bernardino has launched a project to collect surplus produce from urban farms and residents’ parks.
On a hot Tuesday in July, Feeding America Volunteers joined forces with volunteers from Huerta del Valle Community Garden in the Jurupa Valley to pick beets, carrots, onions, lettuce, and lemons from their urban farm.
“With this opportunity to gather, it is a complementary option for us to return more produce, and more food commodities to the community,” said Annissa Fitch, communications coordinator for Feeding America Riverside San Bernardino. “We understand that there are challenges when it comes to sourcing fresh fruits and vegetables, and we want to provide an option for families facing hunger.”
Families face the biggest increase in food prices in 40 years
All this comes at a time when rising inflation has slashed the food budgets of many families. In the twelve months ending in June, overall food prices rose 10.4%, the largest annual increase since February 1981, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Joshua Dietrich, who handles distribution at the food bank, said the number of families he’s seen in recent months is 25% higher than for the same period in 2021.
For residents like Doran, who said he has always been able to provide for his family, food donations are a lifeline.
“Now I’m so limited,” she said. “I feel a bit helpless. You feel like you can’t stand on your own. You have to depend on others to survive.”