Expansion Grant Brings Food to Hungry Seniors in Rural New Mexico

Thanksgiving brings thoughts of turkey, ham, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie. But for seniors and other hungry people in our state, having ANY food to eat is a blessing.  In fact, when our food referral phone line rings off the hook this time of year, it is from callers around the community and state asking for help with regular grocery items  from people completely out of food. They are grateful for any help and take whatever food we and our network of agencies are able to provide to them.

This year, with some additional funding from the Walmart Foundation, many of our most vulnerable seniors will have access to food programs from Roadrunner Food Bank.  The Walmart Foundation provided additional funding this year to increase the number of Senior Helpings sites and senior specific Mobile Food Pantries based in southwestern New Mexico to help low-income seniors.

Six New Mexico counties – Doña Ana, Luna, Grant, Hidalgo, Otero and Sierra counties are benefitting from this expanded Walmart grant funding.

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(seniors receiving food at a Mobile Food Pantry site)

Both the Senior Helpings Program and the senior specific Mobile Food Pantry sites have been distributing food from the grant for the past several months.  So far, the senior Mobile Food Pantry sites have helped 2,856 households providing 134,657 pounds of food or 112,214 meals.  Each senior household receives about 50 pounds of food monthly through the Mobile Food Pantry Program.

The funding from the grant also allowed the Food Bank to expand its Senior Helpings Program.  Five new sites in are now able to provide 30 monthly food boxes. So far, 1,203 seniors have benefitted from the food and received 43,560 pounds of food or 36,300 meals.

The new sites in southwestern New Mexico include:

Mobile Food Pantry – new sites

  • Coordinated Home Health in Hatch
  • Coordinated Home Health in Truth or Consequences
  • Spirit of Hidalgo in Lordsburg
  • Tularosa Community Church in Tularosa
  • Volunteer Center of Grant County located at the senior center in Gila
  • Yes Housing – Mountain View in Deming

Senior Helpings Program – new sites

  • Coordinated Home Health in Deming
  • Coordinated Home Health in Truth or Consequences
  • Hatchita Food Pantry in Hatchita
  • Spirit of Hidalgo in Lordsburg
  • Villa Del Sol Senior Housing in Sunland Park

“This increase in funding from the Walmart Foundation allows us to have a greater capability to impact hunger among seniors in these southwestern counties,” said Melody Wattenbarger, president and CEO of Roadrunner Food Bank. “So many low-income seniors struggle to find a stable source of meals because their social security or retirement benefits aren’t covering all their monthly needs including food.  Now many of them have access to food right in their own communities and they no longer have to miss meals or choose medication over food.”

According to the AARP Foundation, New Mexico is second in the nation for hunger among seniors. Seniors are vulnerable to hunger.  With age comes unique nutritional needs and medical conditions.  Hunger and lack of access to nutritious foods can compromise their health.  Hunger can deteriorate their mental and physical well-being and contribute to chronic illness leaving seniors at risk for increased long-term care or hospitalization.

Dwayne Eason of Coordinated Home Health oversees three of the sites.  He said, “It takes a group of dedicated staff and volunteers to put the distributions together every month.  We are a vested partner because we see firsthand how difficult it can be for seniors to get by living on such very tight-fixed incomes. Providing this service to seniors is a source of pride for each of us involved.”

According to the last Hunger Study by Feeding America and the New Mexico Association of Food Banks, 50% of households with seniors report they do not have enough food to eat.  The report also showed that 46% of seniors choose between paying for food and utilities and 37% report choosing between food and medical care.

This specific grant funding from the Walmart Foundation increased from $75,000 to $150,000 allowing the expansion of senior hunger relief programs by Roadrunner Food Bank. Food for both programs is brought to the sites from Roadrunner Food Bank’s Southern Branch warehouse located in Las Cruces, N.M.

In the last year, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have also provided Roadrunner Food Bank and its network of agencies:

  • Walmart Stores Donated 3.85 Million Pounds of Food
  • Walmart Distribution Center Donated 2 Million Pounds of Food
  • Sams Clubs Gave 991,000 Pounds of Food
  • A grant of $50,000 to launch the Food Bank’s newly created SNAP Outreach Program providing at-risk hungry New Mexicans information and education about food stamp benefits
  • A $45,000 grant to support a program called Food for Kids.  The program supplies low-income children with food to eat over the weekend primarily through elementary schools.

For more information about these newly established sites or becoming a partner agency in southwestern New Mexico, contact Valerie Torrez, manager of community relations at 575.523.4390. In Albuquerque, contact Alissa Barnes, director of community relations at 505.247.2052.

Sonya Warwick is the Communications Officer at Roadrunner Food Bank.



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