Inflation in this region is among the highest in the America. What locals are doing to survive
Ana Duran was a full-time travel counselor for 17 years. She lost the job last year, shortly after egg prices rose to $7.99 a dozen at her local supermarket and avocado prices to $2.99. The cost of filling up her gas tank went from $50 to $94 in June.
A caregiver at an adult day care center and a recipient of unemployment benefits, Duran receives unemployment benefits. She also sells gold jewelry and crushes aluminum cans for extra funds to make ends meet.
The Inland Empire region, where Riverside is located, had 9.4% annual inflation in May, the nation’s highest, making her one of many struggling to get by. In May, the Labor Department’s Consumer Price Index measured an average inflation rate of 8.6% across all US urban areas.
As a result of the pandemic, population growth in the Inland Empire contributed to higher inflation. Riverside and San Bernardino counties were relatively more affordable than big cities, so people moved to them. A lack of supply of goods and services has spurred demand in a region where demand is high. Residents like Duran, as well as organizations seeking to help residents like her, are finding new ways to survive in California, where the average gas price is already the highest in the nation.
Cutting back, and finding extra cash
On July 25, AAA reported that the average price for a gallon of regular gas in Riverside was still over $5.60, despite a slight decline in the last month. Gas and groceries have become too expensive for her to afford. Walks around the mall or cooling off at the mall are no longer necessary. As much as possible, she avoids going to businesses or other locations by phone.
As well as collecting recyclables, she started selling them for extra money. When Duran turns her recycling in on Sundays, she gets a better deal. Due to their weight, aluminum cans are the most valuable recyclable, earning $1.37 per pound.
In better times, Duran bought some gold jewelry for herself, which she has sold.
She said, “Now that other obstacles have come my way, I have other priorities.”. She reflected on all the hard work she put into getting herself something she deserved.
Buying expired food at a discount
Lily Yu, of Riverside, California, prefers to drive 70 miles to Palmdale, California, where discounted groceries can be found, whereas Duran must stay close to home to save on fuel costs.
Some Vallarta Supermarkets have partnered with Flashfood, which lists near-sold-out groceries at huge discounts. It is only in early June that Flashfood made its debut in California, despite long-standing partnerships with Canadian and United States grocery stores.
An ambassadorship with Flashfood was offered to Yu, a social media content creator. CNN reported that Yu often purchases chicken, hummus, bread, and other items at a 50% discount because there is a short time left before the sell-by date.
Flashfood CEO Josh Domingues said that shoppers can now buy food that would otherwise go to the landfill.
There are stories of people buying coolers to put in their basement so they can keep meat and other things like that since they’re saving so much money on things like meat,” Domingues said.
Her app not only helps her save money but also reduces food waste.
I’m able to save money as well as help the environment by reducing food waste.”
Food banks rely on neighbors
Duran picks up groceries donated by Feeding America Riverside San Bernardino every Wednesday morning at the Central Community Christian Fellowship at Riverside.
It has been hard for them lately, but we still get frozen meat and some vegetables,” Duran said.
CNN reports that several grocery partners have opted out of food bank campaigns over the last year due to supply chain constraints.
Because 90% of the food in the organization’s warehouse is donated, not purchased, that poses a level of uncertainty for the organization.
A gleaning project was launched by Feeding America Riverside San Bernardino to supplement potential shortfalls in donations.
Feeding America volunteers pickled beets, carrots, onions, lettuce, and lemongrass from the urban farm of Huerta del Valle in Jurupa Valley on a hot Tuesday in July.
Feeding America Riverside San Bernardino communications coordinator Annissa Fitch said, “This gleaning opportunity allows us to allocate more ingredients and more nutritious goods back to the community.” Our mission is to help families who struggle to access fresh fruits and vegetables.
Food prices are at their highest level in 40 years for families
Household food budgets have been squeezed by higher inflation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that food prices rose 10.4% in the 12 months that ended in June, the largest annual increase since February 1981.
In the past few months, Joshua Dietrich has seen a 25% increase in families seeking assistance from the food bank than in 2021.
Providing food for her family is a lifeline for residents like Duran.
Then I felt helpless and I felt I couldn’t rely on myself. Now I have to rely on others to help me survive, she said.