How the FIND Food Bank is keeping at-risk communities fed during the pandemic: ‘Frontliners,’ episode 2

“Frontliners” is a new limited series from RYOT in partnership with Yahoo News that tells the story of the coronavirus pandemic from the point of view of individuals doing what they can to help their communities. In this episode, we meet Lorena Marroquin, director of community impact at the FIND Food Bank in Indio, Calif., who has been providing assistance to those in need in her community during the pandemic.

Video Transcript

LORENA MARROQUIN: Prior to the pandemic, we were serving about 90,000 people on a monthly basis through our food distribution network. Once everything rolled out, we doubled. Seeing the need grow-- it felt like overnight-- was something that was really eye opening for me. It motivated me to realize this was something that wasn't going to go away.


Hi, my name is Lorena Marroquin. I am the Director of Community Impact for FIND Food Bank in Indio, California. Essentially everything going out of the food bank is what I oversee.



OK, you guys have to hurry up and eat, because we're going to be late.


My motivation is my family. I do everything for them.


Good morning. We've always been an emergency response organization, but we've never had to activate our services in the seven years that I've been working for FIND. Our phones were ringing off the hook. People living paycheck to paycheck already, which is the majority of our clients, was a great concern and urgency. For me it was overwhelming in a sense at that time when I knew that I had to deal with my own concerns and my fears for my family. You don't even think about it. You just react.

We picked up about 25 Rapid Response Mobile Markets. They pop up anywhere like a church, a park, any organization, or entity that lends us their parking lot. And it's a distribution off our truck, but it's essentially anything that you would find at a grocery store, anything to help a family with food from four days to a week. So a family leaving our site would take anywhere from 15 to 30 pounds of food home with them.


DEBBIE ESPINOSA: Hey, how's it going? I'm Debbie. So, Lorena, which sites are these ones going out to again?

LORENA MARROQUIN: They'll be going out tomorrow at Palm Springs Convention Center.

DEBBIE ESPINOSA: OK, how many people are we doing at Palm Springs Convention Center?

LORENA MARROQUIN: I'm only serve about 1,000 households.


LORENA MARROQUIN: So 1,000 pallets.


DEBBIE ESPINOSA: And this is what we do every day. 2,000 bags we pack every day. 2,000 bags going out to the community and just making sure that everybody doesn't have to wonder where their next meal is coming from. They know FINE Food Bank's got their back.


LORENA MARROQUIN: We're a staff of 30, so we rely heavily on volunteers. You get to see people come together and really help give back to the community. They're volunteering monetarily or spreading awareness for the food bank.


I had a distribution where we normally serve 200 families, and there wasn't enough room for cars. It got so packed that the police showed up. Because there was people backed up into the freeway seeking food assistance. It was something like I had never seen before. I was in shock.


Here we are ramping up our operations, but we don't have anyone here to really help carry out the work. So Debbie was proactive, and she contacted the National Guard. And we were one of the food banks in California that were provided National Guard assistance.

DEBBIE ESPINOSA: Keep on and we're all set to go? All right, perfect. Thank you guys.

- Thank you.

LORENA MARROQUIN: But definitely we wouldn't to be able to carry out the work without that partnership and that collaboration with the state.

- Do one too.

- Do you want some help?

- Yes.

- OK.


LORENA MARROQUIN: When I hear friends say that they're staying home, and it's been hectic for them, because they want to get out and go about their daily routine, I just think I don't want to be home. I want to be with my family. It's hard. Good night, Lali and Alexander.

Being with my children, no matter how I'm feeling, they do something that makes me laugh and brings joy to my life that takes me out of having to think about how many people are affected or how many people are going without food. That sometimes can overwhelm you.

It's humbling to know that you're in a position to help people. At the same time, it's scary, because you have your own family that you want to protect. And you want to just do the best that you can to be everything for everyone.

I think everyone's seeking to get back to normal. What's that normal going to look like for our family, for our work life? What practices have we learned that we can continue? Moving forward there's light at the end of the tunnel. Remember that you are resilient, and that you can get through it.