Monthly Archives: May 2013
I have been working with Roadrunner Food Bank for almost 2 years, but it wasn’t until recently I had the honor of moving to Las Cruces and becoming the Southern Branch’s Manager of Community Relations. I have only been in Las Cruces now for about 3 months, and I am continually amazed by the generosity and friendliness I have encountered in Southern New Mexico. When I first started working in the Food Bank’s Southern Branch, I was fortunate enough to be contacted by Richelle Ponder of the Las Cruces Rotary’s Wednesday Group, informing me that we had been selected as the 2013 Taste of Las Cruces Non-Profit Beneficiary. What a great way to begin my time in Las Cruces! Since then I have worked with many wonderful people on the Planning Committee whom have made planning this event fun and rewarding.
The federal SNAP program helps nearly 47 million Americans put food on the table. I met one of them today. She was waiting in line at a food pantry in Albuquerque. The neighborhood she lives in has always been on the down side of socio economic wellbeing, but these days, it’s really been hit hard. Her husband was at work, and she was excited because he gets paid on the first of the month. Since June first falls on a Saturday, the company will pay him on Friday. The early paycheck will help. They moved to Albuquerque from another state. I’m judging by her warm, gentle drawl that they’re originally from Oklahoma or East Texas. “I’ve never seen a state that takes care of people like New Mexico,” she said. Between a once a month visit to the neighborhood food pantry and her SNAP benefits, she said her family stays fed. “It’s never enough, but we can get by. We used to get more from food stamps, but it keeps getting lower and lower,” she explained. As her husband worked more hours, earning more pay, they qualify for less and less SNAP benefits. That’s the way the Supplemental Food Assistance Program, formerly known as Food Stamps works. As your ‘relative need’ for assistance decreases, so does the amount placed on your SNAP EBT card. It’s a hand up, not a hand out as our politicians love to say. I’m sure the increase in her husband’s pay cannot keep pace with the cuts to her benefits. And, if she can find a job in this economy, her check would barely cover day care for their children. It’s a tough spot that many working people find themselves in these days. But this afternoon, she seemed happy. She smiled as she left the food pantry. She had a couple of sacks of groceries to take home to her husband and kids. Today she would be getting by. Jason Riggs is the SNAP Outreach Coordinator at Roadrunner Food Bank.
This past Saturday I had the pleasure of working at a US Postal Service substation for the annual National Association of Letter Carriers’ Stamp Out Hunger food drive. This is the largest single-day food drive in the country every year and it relies on all kinds of people to come together to pull it off. From the hardworking Letter Carriers who fit the food collection into their normal hours while on their routes that day, to volunteers who give up part of their Saturday to stand, schlep, sort and sweat, to Food Bank staff who put in an extra day that week, to the US Postal Service who approve delivery of the collection bags and use of their facilities, to sponsors like Campbell’s Soup Company and AARP and the coordination of our national organization Feeding America and, most-importantly, to donors across the country who take the time to put food out that day.
Because he lives in Toronto and it’s expensive to text or talk on the phone, my uncle writes me letters. How nice it is to walk out to the mailbox and see my name on an envelope that isn’t a bill of some sort. What’s even better is the thrill I get from slipping a note into the mail, knowing he’ll get it in a few days. Who knew old-fashioned snail mail could still be so exciting? Buying a book of stamps and sending my uncle letters is a tiny blip on my budget radar. In fact, I often buy them at the grocery store at the same time I’m overindulging on food for a new recipe or spending too much money on an imported bottle of wine just because I like the way the label looks. In those moments it’s easy to be wasteful and forget that nearly 17 million children in the United States will probably go without food today.
Thirty years ago when I worked in my first food bank in Amarillo, we always talked about the dual nature of our mission. We have always existed to feed hungry people, and the most important part of every communication we have ever delivered is about who is hungry, about how many hungry people there are, and about the effects of hunger on individuals and on our society. In thirty years that message has never changed, never wavered, never been diluted. And it never will be as long as we exist. We have always had another aspect to our work—one that is also very, very important. Somewhere along the way over the decades, we stopped talking about this other aspect of our work. We were certainly created in the beginning to feed hungry people. The main way we did that was—and still is—to take food that would otherwise go to waste and channel that food to hungry people. I wrote in another blog about the amount of food we waste in our country and about the environmental impact of all of that food ending up in landfills. I can’t quit thinking about the fact that a quarter of the methane gas in our atmosphere is the result of food ending up in the landfills rather than being eaten.