I am writing today to announce the closure of the New Mexico Independent. After three and a half years of operation in New Mexico, the board of the American Independent News Network, has decided to shift publication of its news…
Posts Tagged Roadrunner Food Bank
Signs are everywhere that the economic slump is affecting those who have the least resources.
A petite woman with a friendly face framed by curly black hair, Martinez was on hand Thursday to hear Gov. Bill Richardson and other officials announce that the federal government is purchasing $700,000 in extra food.
The chicken and pork products, along with canned fruit and produce, is being distributed over the next several months to low-income New Mexicans across the state who might otherwise go hungry.
Among those expected to benefit are senior citizens who rely on boxes of food supplied by Albuquerque’s Roadrunner Food Bank and children at 35 low-income schools. They receive backpacks during the school year packed with food for weekends and holidays.
“There are people out there living on $300 a month,” she said.
Martinez has a street-level perspective of hunger in New Mexico.
She coordinates deliveries of food to individuals and families living in Albuquerque’s Brentwood Gardens Apartments, where she is a resident. She volunteers at the food bank, but she also is a client, receiving a box of food each month meant to last her 30 or so days.
“I know how to budget,” Martinez says. “I learned from an early age. My mom always made us beans, tortillas with green chile. Others don’t know how to.”
Things have gotten worse in the last year, she said.
“People are hurting. If you are working and you’re hurting, you’re definitely hurting if you are on a fixed income,” Martinez said.
Melody Wattenbarger, executive director at the Roadrunner Food Bank, has noted the rise in hunger too. It’s hard to miss, she said.
A year ago the Roadrunner Food Bank was shipping 65,000 pounds of food a day to its partner food banks across the state. Today that amount is 90,000 pounds, Wattenbarger said.
The increase has to do with rising need, Wattenbarger acknowledged. But it also has to do with the additional food that is on hand thanks to the federal government’s cash infusion.
On Thursday, 552 whole chickens and 868 cases of applesauce were shipped out, headed to various parts of the state, thanks to the federal stimulus money.
But that’s only a small fraction of what the $700,000 pays for, state officials said.
“That’s nearly 600,000 pounds of food that will soon be on dinner tables around the state,” Richardson said of the federal infusion. “These are tough times. More and more New Mexicans are turning to some kind of assistance to help provide a decent meal for their families.”
The economic slump has led to a 28 percent increase in applicants for New Mexico’s food stamp program, said Pam Hyde, the New Mexico Human Services Department secretary.
“We are seeing a lot of people come in to our offices for the first time asking for help for food on the table,” Hyde added.
The money earmarked for New Mexico is part of a $100 million infusion of stimulus funds to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Emergency Assistance Food Program, Rosa Coronado, director of USDA’s Special Nutrition Program, said Thursday.
New Mexico, like other states, is receiving poultry, pork, canned fruits, peanut products and cheese.
The state also is receiving $173,000 to help agencies and organizations pay for the administrative costs required to handle the additional food, Coronado said.
ALBUQUERQUE – This month is shaping up as one of the most difficult Septembers in memory in terms of feeding and helping those in need, the head of one of the state’s largest food banks tells the New Mexico Independent.
Even before hurricanes hit Texas and Louisiana, those states “were facing the same conditions that we are” in terms of struggling to meet the demands of the hungry, Roadrunner Food Bank Director Melody Wattenbarger told NMI. “I can’t imagine how bad it would be if we had a natural disaster on top of the struggles we already face.
“We feel compelled to help out,” Wattenbarger added.
For the second time in as many weeks, Roadrunner Food Bank has issued an appeal asking New Mexicans for donations to help victims of hurricanes Gustav and Ike in neighboring Texas and Louisiana, saying their national counterpart, Feeding America, is reporting the situation as a “human crisis.”
While media attention has been diverted from the storm-ravaged region because of the nation’s financial system failings, “people are still suffering and need help,” Wattenbarger said in the public appeal.
“The financial problems in the country have taken the media limelight, but we need to continue providing aid. We desperately need the community to step forward and host large-scale food and fund drives as soon as possible.”
While the Bush administration and Congress negotiate a $700 billion bailout for U.S. financial institutions, disaster funds have been exhausted in the Gulf Coast region, Roadrunner reports.
Wattenbarger told NMI: “The food bank in San Antonio ran out of food and at one point last week, they got 500 requests for food in one hour.” She said the Houston food bank that normally distributes 125,000 pounds of food a day has been distributing four times that amount –- 500,000 pounds a day, or the equivalent of 17 truckloads -– since the hurricanes.
Meanwhile, thousands of people are still in shelters. “It’s a dire situation,” she said.
Wattenbarger told NMI September is normally a tough month for food banks: The holiday spirit that precedes Thanksgiving and Christmas hasn’t kicked in yet. This September, however, has been “abnormal” -– perhaps the most abnormal “in my entire experience,” Wattenbarger said.
She explained that both the financial crisis and the presidential election make fundraising more difficult.
“I think people right now are nervous, and in times of great uncertainty –- like we’re facing now -– people are a little more cautious about giving,” she said. “Presidential elections cause nervousness sometimes, because we don’t know what the outcome will be.”
Meanwhile, hunger in New Mexico “is ongoing and it’s getting worse,” she told NMI.
New Mexico was ranked number one in the nation in “food insecurity” — that is, more New Mexicans per capita going without meals and/or unsure where their next meal will come from — in a 2007 report by America’s Second Harvest (now Feeding America). In that report, which uses data from 2005, New Mexico was ranked fourth in terms of overall poverty — with only Louisiana, Mississippi and the District of Columbia ranking lower — and the state tied with Louisiana and Alabama at No. 3 in terms of childhood poverty, with only Mississippi and the District of Columbia faring worse.
On the other hand, Roadrunner has attracted a “great number of volunteers lately,” Wattenbarger said, although she added, “We can always use more.”
A few businesses are holding food drives this week in response to last week’s plea for help for the hurricane victims, she added. Holding a food drive is fairly simple: Work sites, offices and organizations simply put the word out that they’re collecting food and personal hygiene items, and when they’re done, they call Roadrunner to pick up what’s been collected.
As the donations come in, Roadrunner notifies Feeding America, which gets the food and personal hygiene items. Feeding America estimates the Gulf Coast will need 400 truckloads of food to help the hundreds of thousands displaced by the hurricane. One hundred percent of any monetary donations directed toward Hurricane Relief will be sent to the area, Wattenbarger said.
“We are imploring our community to give either monetary funds or food,” Wattenbarger continued. “Please come forward and host a fund or food drive.”
Donors can give by phone: (505) 247-2052 (select option 4). Gifts can also be made online at www.rrfb.org.
Non-perishable donations needed to support relief efforts include:
• Pop-top, ready-to-eat foods
• Granola bars, power bars, cereal bars
• Meal replacement beverages
• Canned meats (tuna, chicken, beef, salmon, etc.)
• Canned vegetables
• Canned fruit
• Peanut butter/jelly
• Canned soups and chili (pop-tops please)
• Bottled drinking water (no glass containers)
• Shelf-stable juice, milk and sports beverages
• Baby needs (diapers, formula, baby bottles)
• Personal hygiene (toothpaste, toothbrush, soap, etc.)
• Paper products (toilet paper, napkins, plates, tissue)
• Cleaning supplies