Author Archives: Jason Riggs
“It was me in an empty room with a phone and a computer.” That was Alissa Barnes’s first day on the job at Roadrunner Food Bank. The year was 2008. Alissa was tasked with starting an experimental new program called Mobile Food Pantry. Only a few food banks of around the country had tried it at that time. The concept seemed simple. New Mexico is so big and rural that many people live too far from food pantries to get help with food. There were, and still are, some counties where accessing a grocery store could be a one hour drive. So, if hungry people couldn’t get to a food pantry, then bring the food pantry to the people. The program was so new that the Food Bank was looking for partners. A member of the Pajarito Mesa Community Church of the Nazarene reached out to Roadrunner. He saw the need right on the Pajarito Mesa. His neighbors didn’t have access to roads or even basics such as running water in their homes.
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.
The first time I met Lois Page was in 2008 at Roadrunner Food Bank’s previous home on Baylor. I was in a small office next to the glass door that led to the stair case. Anyone who came up those stairs had to walk by me. I was pretty new on the job, so not too many people knew me. One day, I looked up to see a petite elderly woman standing in front of me. I heard, “I came by to say hello to my friend.” She then proceeded to the next office where I heard warm greetings and laughter. That was Lois Page through and through. Over the years, I’d often find Lois searching the hallways looking for her friend. I don’t think she ever had to look that hard. It was impossible not to like Lois. She was sweet and friendly. She was funny, too. And, obviously, she was a very generous person.