Editors Note: A previous version of this story said that The Food Depot distributes to all 50 states. It was corrected to say that it distributed to nin counties in New Mexico. The story also previously stated that every 97 cents donated to the Food Depot goes directly to feeding a New Mexican, but was corrected to 94 cents.

Ever since COVID-19 has altered our lifestyles, many people have been looking to support the community. However, some food banks like the Food Depot in Santa Fe are denying food donations to prevent spreading the virus. Instead, they are asking for cash donations as a safer and more effective way of helping people across New Mexico in need of a meal. 

The Food Depot distributes food to pantries in nine northern New Mexican counties. 

According to their website, “the Food Depot does not want community members to give away resources that they may need should the crisis persist for longer than expected.”

The Food Depot said in a statement on March 16 that if they were to receive food donations that it would be a higher risk of spreading the virus to homeless populations that they are trying to support. Instead, donating online can support buying bulk in food items to help more people in need.

“Every 94 cents that are donated to the Food Depot helps one of every person in New Mexico to get a meal,” Jill Dixon, development manager for the Santa Fe Food Depot, said. “It’s definitely a challenge with the COVID-19, but when there’s a person in need, there’s a community to help.” 

The Food Depot has been providing meals for families with children and all ages coming to the distribution. When preparing food, their goal is to “prepare groceries for typically a family of four, that would be able to survive them four to eight days,” not knowing how big each family the Food Bank will see, Dixon added. 

Due to the pandemic, other food banks in Albuquerque, like RoadRunner Food Bank, still wish to continue to collect food donations from people around the city. 

“[The food banks] are having trouble keeping their shelves stocked due to increased demand for assistance and competing orders to distributors from other large buyers,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a press release

Currently, the RoadRunner food bank is encouraging drive-thru food distributions to minimize interpersonal contact as a social distancing protocol. In a press release, the RoadRunner Food Bank said the organization wants to continue all donations but alter how it preps food delivered to distribution locations as well. 

“It’s been important we continue to balance health safety precautions established by state and federal agencies while ensuring our neighbors in need have access to food,” Mag Strittmatter, president, and CEO of Roadrunner Food Bank said. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, RoadRunner Food Bank is shifting to a boxed food model. This will decrease the amount of interpersonal contact while still allowing low-income families to have access to emergency food. 

The food boxes will be prepared at the food bank’s warehouse with a variety of food items for each household. 

Both RoadRunner and the Food Depot in Santa Fe are still in need of volunteers. They said that volunteers are key to providing all families with the food they need.

Since this new shift with the new challenges, the Santa Fe Food Depot hasn’t seen as many volunteers. In the past previous years, “the Food Depot has recruited 20,000 hours of volunteers which is equivalent to 16 staff members,” Dixon said. 

During this pandemic, there have been some volunteers wanting to participate, but the Food Depot and RoadRunner Food Bank want to ensure that they are taking the recommendations from the New Mexico Department of Health carefully. 

According to the Santa Fe Food Depot website, “The Food Depot’s role in hunger relief is more important now than ever. The food bank is relying on community support to help build capacity to meet a growing need at this critical time.”

With these times of uncertainty, the Santa Fe Food Depot and RoadRunner want to ensure there are distributions out to help families and people in need. Though these times are hard, a community is always there to help and teams that are committed to keeping people safe!

Cameron Ward is a culture reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at culture@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @xx_cameo_xx