"The tenant that was next to us who had this space has had his business downsized dramatically," said Daryl Brock, the executive director of Riverside's Second Harvest. "Like, 10 percent of the volume he used to do."
That makes sense, considering he specialized in making ornate building facades out of Styrofoam covered in plaster. The construction business in Riverside County, until recently a driving force of the local economy, has come to a standstill.
Meanwhile, more people than ever are looking for assistance feeding their families. In Riverside, 12 percent of the population lived in poverty in 2008, according to a report by the California Food Policy Advocates, a public policy and advocacy organization. Out of those low-income households, 31 percent were not getting enough food. That is where Brock comes in.
His food bank, which is part of the Feeding America network, the largest in the country, takes in food from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, farmers, local food drives, and large companies like Walmart. Charitable organizations come here to pick up food and supplies, which they then give out for free in their communities.
A walk through the giant warehouse reveals products of all shapes and sizes, from fresh fruit and vegetables to giant jugs of strawberry sauce to Snickers Bars and even some Christmas decorations. Brock likes to boast that he has anything and everything that can be found in the grocery store.
"We began to see through our agencies before the financial crisis that there was an increasing number of requests for assistance," Brock said. "As the housing crisis progressed into the unemployment crisis, those numbers have gone up to a 30 or 40 percent increase in requests for food assistance."
A report released this month by Feeding America found that 37 million Americans—one in eight—get food from their network of food banks and agencies. That is an increase of 46 percent from their last study, released in 2006. Brock said most of the increase is in users who have not had to get help before.
"The anecdotal evidence of the agencies tell us that the largest group of people coming to them for help are families that are either unemployed, underemployed, facing the risk of losing their house, or are people who have never faced this before."