RIVERSIDE, Calif. — The average price of a gallon of regular gasoline in Los Angeles County is $1.79 higher than one year ago.

Even though gas is generally cheaper inland, any increase is a big deal for one food bank trying to reach all of the Inland Empire.

Feeding America Riverside|San Bernardino distributes more than 2 million pounds of food per month, directly and through hundreds of local nonprofit partners.

Programs director Jacqueline Arias does a lot more than sit behind a desk. She often packs and hands off the goods to drivers doing home deliveries, many of whom are paid by the food ordering app DoorDash because it’s getting too expensive for volunteers.

“With the surge in prices, it just becomes really hard to get those volunteers, especially in the areas that are so much farther away,” Arias said.

The regional food bank covers both Riverside and San Bernardino counties while paying an extra $2,000 a month for transportation. The food bank reported in February fuel expenses reached record costs, greater than $5,200. It’s throwing the budget all out of whack.

Their partners are feeling it too. Even though Malek Bendelhoum founded and leads the nonprofit Sahaba Initiative, he’s not above restocking the food pantry.

“Doesn’t matter whether we’re a board member or what our position is — there’s work to be done,” he said.

Bendelhoum is doing less trips between Sahaba’s headquarters in San Bernardino and the food bank, with larger loads. This is the mental Tetris that Bendelhoum plays to ensure no one goes hungry because the more money that goes toward gas, that means less money for nutritious food and social services.

For now, Bendelhoum is squeezing the most out of every drive and finding room in the budget for growing transportation costs.

“Our faith teaches us that we should help those that are in need no matter who they are, no matter who we are. If we’re in a position to help those that are in need, we have to help those that are in need,” he said.

Arias draws inspiration from her own experiences.

“I grew up not necessarily knowing where my next meal was coming from, so it feels really, really good to be able to help families ‘cause I know the predicament that they’re in.”