I arrive at the Albuquerque Storehouse at 8:00 am on a Wednesday morning. The doors don’t open until 8:45 and already the line has snaked around the building. In 2009 New Mexico was ranked twelfth on the list of most food insecure states in the nation; one in every six New Mexicans will seek food assistance this year; and furthermore 43% of New Mexicans benefiting from food assistance are children.
The Storehouse is the largest “Food Rescue, Food Share organization in New Mexico” and currently provides food assistance to about 360 people per week. Citizens can visit the Storehouse once a month for food and once a month for clothing. They require only a New Mexico ID, and no proof of financial insecurity. This makes the Storehouse an excellent resource for people who are currently facing an unforeseen hardship and may need extra help to get themselves and their families through the month.
I met with the Storehouse’s press representative Lisa Giering who spoke to me about the inner workings of the pantry. The Storehouse is a partner of the New Mexico Roadrunner Food Bank, which distributes over 26 million pounds of food to New Mexico food pantries every year. While both institutions are nonprofits, the Storehouse must pay for the food it receives from Roadrunner, at nineteen cents per pound of nonperishable items, plus the cost of transportation.
In fact, most of the food the Storehouse distributes is purchased with a yearly food budget of about $58,000, or 10% of their total yearly budget. Lisa explained how the bureaucracy of food pantries can be challenging. Lack of resources such as available grants and willing donors can create some competition amongst groups like these. Yet Lisa seemed able to focus on the reason these agencies exist: “I feel that if someone gets fed, no matter how they get fed, it’s a good thing.”
To me her statement brought up larger issues of nutrition and sustainability that can be difficult to reconcile in these situations. When I visited the Roadrunner Food Bank I was shocked by the 500 pound bag of Captain Crunch cereal and the pudding snack packs that were finding their way into children’s after school backpacks. Yet chances are the snacks would really help these kids over the course of the weekend, when they weren’t being fed at school. Lisa pointed out the health paradox so many New Mexican children are suffering from: many are overweight and malnourished.
I asked Lisa if the Storehouse held any partnerships with local farmers, and unfortunately the answer was no. She said that she had been approached by local groups but no one had followed through. Also that it’s “hard to count on local farms” and even harder to transport produce and keep it fresh long enough to distribute it. The Storehouse takes donations of all kinds and sizes. If you find yourself with a surplus of fruits and veggies, or you want to make a difference in your community, no matter how small, you can bring donations to the back entrance of the Storehouse located at 106 Broadway SE. As Lisa said, “Small change, small involvement, is still powerful.”
Here’s what I took away from this experience: it’s important to get involved with organizations like the Storehouse, whether it be because you or your family is in need of some food, or simply because you want to make an impact on your local community. Lisa and I discussed the ways in which Albuquerque is growing socially and economically as a city, “but not for everyone that it should be.” With the influx of the film industry and hip places like Nob Hill and Downtown, it seems easier to gloss over the fact that New Mexico has one of the highest rates of poverty in the United States, and that almost 50% of single mother households live below the poverty line. While some of us are disconnected from the realities of these statistics, visiting the Storehouse, bringing donations, and volunteering can help to ground us, and remind us what it means to live sustainably.
-Posted by Magdalena