FEEDING NEW MEXICO, PART 1: CATCHING THE ROADRUNNER
Enthusiasm is infectious. Teresa, the COO of Roadrunner Food Bank of New Mexico, is happy to spread her enthusiasm to anyone who walks through the door. Feeding those in need in an entire state should be a logistical nightmare. For Teresa, it's just one of many things she's excited to find a solution for. The electricity bill for the food bank's facilities was too high. She had the roof covered in solar panels. Now with the thousands of dollars in savings, she can devote more resources to feeding more people.
She needs dedicated and engaged employees. People she can train and rely on that understand the food bank's mission. She hires homeless and disadvantaged people.
Despite her constant efficiency improvements, her work is never done. This year, more than 360,000 people or 17% of New Mexico residents are at-risk of hunger. Weekly, Roadrunner Food Bank is able to help 70,000 hungry clients through their network of partner agencies and direct service programs.
After getting a brief tour from Teresa, we got to work with Mark, a genial man with a smile and a handshake that make you feel at ease. Mark works for Galloping Grace Youth Ranch, which is a partner of Roadrunner Food Bank of New Mexico (more on them tomorrow). We sorted through countless boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables, all of which were donated by local grocery stores, pulling the spoiled foods and piling them into a nearly overflowing commercial garbage bin. Or at least what appeared to be a garbage bin. What else but trash could rotted and moldy food be? We'd find out soon enough.
The rest of the food was grouped to be distributed to people all over New Mexico that desperately need help.
Thousands of pounds of food come in each day from local stores. While it's unquestionably wonderful that the food bank has this resource, it's also eye-opening to see the kinds of food a grocery store deems unsaleable. A bundle of bananas with a slight bruise. A loaf of bread that's slightly deformed. A green pepper with a funny looking extra growth. There's nothing wrong with these foods. But they're useless to the stores, and it's not entirely their fault. They're just responding to market demands. The real responsibility is on us, the consumers. And it's a responsibility we need to take more seriously. Millions of tons of food are filling up our landfills every year.
Thank goodness for people like Teresa and everyone at the Roadrunner Food Bank that help keep some of this from becoming mountains of garbage. But as great of a problem solver as she is, she can't fix a national epidemic on her own. We've got to reshape our thinking. We've got to not be so wasteful. We've got to be more mindful and intelligent about our consumption habits. We've got to do better and do more until we can say, "Problem solved."