Ruben Morin jumps in and out of a giant black truck loading heavy boxes full of food with the nimbleness of a man half his age. He was at Foods Co Thursday afternoon loading countless boxes of food to take to New Beginnings Christian Fellowship Church, where he has volunteered and attended services for about two years.
"I was getting free food and I was like, 'I've got to earn this,'" he said.
So now he helps get food to less fortunate people in the area.
"I just like seeing their smiles in the neighborhood," Morin said.
Volunteers from the church pick up shipments of food from local grocery stores, sort through them at the church's warehouse, and distribute the food to about 150 nonprofits in the area. They also take part in the Fresh Rescue program where grocery stores donate fresh fruit and dairy items that are on the verge of spoiling and haven't been sold yet. New Beginnings refrigerates and distributes the food before it goes to waste.
Pastor Troy Morris walked through the warehouse Thursday, weaving through about 15 volunteers who were there sorting food and household necessities.
"Anything you can find in a supermarket, you'll find in here," he said, gesturing to the warehouse with crates of everything from Depends to Gatorade stacked to the ceiling.
The need for household items and food in Kern County is greater than ever at New Beginnings.
"There are more and more organizations doing this and there's less and less to give away," Morris said.
Jose Garcia was at the warehouse picking up loaves of bread with his wife Thursday and said food from the warehouse has been very helpful for the last six years.
"I just saw people coming and now I come and it makes a big difference," he said.
Morris is also seeing more elderly people in need than when he first gave out food about eight years ago. He credited this to retired people having to deal with the rising cost of gas and amenities.
"The younger guys can go out and make their way some how," Morris said. "The senior citizens are really getting hammered."
Program Director Michele Gomez at Kern County Aging and Adult Services said the elderly come to them for food referrals because they must pay for more medications and higher insurance premiums.
"We get phone calls every day from seniors," Gomez said. "They are having to make a decision whether to buy food or medication."
Gomez said a lot of the elderly are also dealing with family members moving in, which is financially strenuous when living off a fixed income.
But New Beginnings is still working hard to relieve the financial burden on everyone, including seniors.
The church has already raised about $50,000 in monetary donations over the first five months of this year, only about $13,000 away from the total monetary donations received in 2011.
And that doesn't include the 95,575 pounds of fresh produce the church has distributed this year through Fresh Rescue.
Community Action Partnership of Kern Food Bank also distributes food throughout the county.
Program Manager Ian Anderson said he's seeing a whole new demographic -- the "working poor" -- those who had a job and lost it or are given fewer hours to work.
"We do find that a lot of new clients are these people who are working and trying to hold on," he said. "A lot of times they may be working enough to not qualify for other services."
Vice President of Business Development Ken Beurmann at Goodwill Industries of South Central California said that Goodwill was also seeing a higher volume of customers at its stores, but that they weren't spending as much per transaction as they did before the recession.
"People that otherwise wouldn't have shopped for clothing there have decided to give Goodwill a chance," Beurmann said.