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Beyond The Glam: Feeding The Coachella Valley’s Most Vulnerable Residents

The Coachella Valley is perhaps best known for big-ticket attractions: its annual namesake music festival and tennis tournament in Indian Wells, and the swanky resort town of Palm Springs.

But there’s a flip side to all that glam.

Poverty is also endemic to the desert valley, which stretches for 45 miles in Riverside County. The median household income there is roughly $45,500, less than two-thirds the statewide median.

Among the most vulnerable are the area’s seniors, many of whom lack access to fresh and healthful food during the COVID-19 crisis.

In response to the pandemic, the FIND Food Bank in Indio, California, started delivering food in March to area residents 65 and older and those with disabilities who are confined to their homes. It serves an average of 150 people weekly.

Since the pandemic took hold, the food bank has been receiving help from local businesses, the California National Guard and the California Conservation Corps, which employs adults ages 18 to 25 for a year of natural resources work and emergency response efforts. With their aid, the food bank has distributed about 3.5 million pounds of food in two months.

Food banks around the state are relying on the Corps and National Guard as they experience “a simultaneous shortage of volunteers and a significant increase in the demand for food,” according to the California Association of Food Banks.

“Before the pandemic, we were servicing 90,000 people per month,” said Lorena Marroquin, director of community impact at FIND Food Bank. “We are tripling what we’ve been doing in the past.”

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