One in six people struggle with food insecurity in New Mexico, according to Feeding America, the United States' largest domestic hunger-relief organization. That’s roughly 324,000 New Mexicans, including one in four children, struggling with hunger every day.
Local food banks, farmers, and growers markets are each doing their part to address hunger in New Mexico.
Roadrunner Foodbank has partnered with Feeding America to distribute over 31 million meals to people dealing with hunger in counties all over New Mexico. Roadrunner is currently the only partner of Feeding America in New Mexico
During this crisis, Roadrunner has created a Coronavirus Planning Task Force, led by their senior team leaders, and has been meeting regularly to actively support their hunger relief agency and partner with other distribution agencies across New Mexico.
Sonya Warwick, the communications officer for Roadrunner said some food pantries they partner with have had to close down because of the crisis, so Roadrunner has helped to fill in the gaps by opening up distribution in the affected areas.
Warwick said those locations might not have enough volunteers, or could not meet the social distancing requirements put out by the state.
Roadrunner urges it's community to give funds, food and time to the foodbank. New Mexicans can register to volunteer on their website.
While the shortages in grocery stores might remind some of what food shortages looked like during the Great Depression, New Mexicans are also looking to alternative sources for fresh produce and other products.
Monte Skarsgard, of Skarsgard Farms, an Albuquerque based, community-supported agriculture (CSA) farming group, has partnered with small farmers in New Mexico and surrounding states for years to bring our state fresh foods year-round.
While Skarsgard said he has seen restaurant demands cool off for his local suppliers during the coronavirus pandemic, grocery stores’ need for food has skyrocketed.
Advocating for locally grown food for years, Skarsgard said people are now starting to see how a pandemic can have an effect on New Mexicans’ lives.
“We have been vocal advocates for decades that our community's food security is rooted in the local food movement,” Skarsgard said. “With the pandemic changing all of our lives, I think more and more people are beginning to see this, too. Even after the pandemic wanes, my hope is that our local food system will be stronger than ever.”
Skarsgard farms offers home delivery to Albuquerque metro-area residents as well as to out of town residents for a small fee. People can also choose to pick-up their food for no additional charge.
Zoey Fink, a New Mexican farmer and state organizer for the National Young Farmers Coalition, has also been working to bring produce to homes in the state. She said the biggest challenge that small-scale and beginning farmers face is not having enough product to sell at cheap, wholesale prices.
“We have to make our bottom line,” Fink said. “For folks in the early stages of owning a farm and having the capital saved up, if they want to be able to offer a product for less or give it away, we have to make sure they’re able to pay their bills as well.”
Fink is a part of another CSA in Albuquerque that provides locally grown produce to 60 families in the metro area. She works with eight other small farmers in the Albuquerque area along with a delivery driver to supply the boxes to people's doorstep every week.
Fink said they are moving as much product as they can, and are sold out of almost everything. While she is able to feed 60 families, she said she has a waitlist of about 200.
“There's a lot of issues right now with food distribution and making sure that folks get their food - like children who are used to getting meals from school and individuals who have trouble getting to the grocery store who may be dependent on public transportation,” Fink said. “There's a lot more people that need to be fed than we’re all able to do but we’re trying.”
While Fink’s work and places like Skarsgard Farms remain open to the public, other farmer’s markets and CSAs have had to postpone their openings due to coronavirus. Downtown Growers Market, a popular spot in downtown Albuquerque is set to open May 2.
“We want this to be a safe and positive experience for everyone and are working hard to consider every aspect,” a statement from the Downtown Grower’s Market said. “We will be using those extra weeks to source more supplies and execute a solid plan for the Market.”
In the meantime, Downtown Growers Market is working to set up a system, much like Skarsgard farms, where people can order foods and other market items directly from vendors.
Along with that, they are organizing a drive-thru, pickup style farmers market to take place on Saturday, April 25 at Fusion Theatre on 1st Street.
Amanda Britt is the photo editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @AmandaBritt__