Monthly Archives: July 2013
Summer has always been my favorite season of the year. In New Mexico, it is particularly wonderful as we have fairly mild temperatures and very little humidity. As a child and into my college years, I longed for summer vacation from school. By the time the holidays passed, I was ready for summer. I would imagine myself at a baseball game, eating a hot dog and enjoying the outdoors. I imagined myself camping with cousins and relatives for our annual family reunion. I longed to be laying by the pool on a hot summer day, maybe followed up by a barbeque. I loved summer so much growing up and it’s still my favorite season (even though I no longer get a summer vacation). I know this is not the case for tens of thousands of families who live in poverty across New Mexico. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. For struggling families, the summer is a time of dread. Their children no longer have access to the subsidized school meal programs. This means that struggling parents must come up with a way to provide those additional meals while school is out.
A wise friend once advised me that the key to happiness is serving others. Ten years later and still unhappy, I finally took her advice to heart and began engaging in jobs and volunteer activities with a focus on helping others. Since that time I have recorded textbooks for the visually impaired, been an acting coach for performers with developmental disabilities, and managed day programs for adults with severe and persistent mental illnesses. As for happiness, my friend was right. I was immediately intrigued when I saw an ad in the Albuquerque Journal announcing an available position at Roadrunner Food Bank. I was familiar with Roadrunner Food Bank, as I had accompanied clients there (at its former and current location) to volunteer. My clients reported enjoying playing their part in feeding New Mexicans experiencing hunger. To this day, I am moved on a daily basis seeing so many people of varying ages, abilities and backgrounds volunteering at Roadrunner.
In the midst of all our operational changes taking place this past year, we recently had a special visit from our national organization, Feeding America. This visit is one that occurs every couple years for the purpose of monitoring our work. As a member of this nationwide network of more than 200 US food banks, the monitoring process serves as a compliance and evaluation tool. It allows us to bench mark and set standards and goals consistent with our peer food banks across the nation. Staff from Feeding America spend several days with us measuring our compliance with a set of national standards.
We’ve been busy over the past several years. Very, very busy – all for the good of hungry people in our state. What am I talking about? I’m talking about tracking progress, tracking inventory, and in the end helping hungry clients. Since the mid 1990’s, we’ve been measuring how many pounds we receive and distribute with a formal inventory tracking system. For many years, our growth was steady until we hit a wall. The size of our previous home, located near the airport in Albuquerque, limited our ability to continue growing. By 2003, we had no room to expand. That changed with the move to our warehouse near Jefferson in the spring of 2009. A larger facility allowed us to grow at a time when our help was needed more than ever. In 2008 and 2009, our network of agencies and programs were experiencing a 40% increase as more families, adults, seniors and children began seeking help with food, many for the very first time. The recession took hold of our economy as jobs began to disappear in many areas. We needed to have the ability to respond to the huge increase and demand for help with food. A larger warehouse helped us with that and we began to grow again.