Food Depot’s neighbor-to-neighbor campaign enters its 10th year | Local News


Jill Dixon hopes the sight of an endless line of cars off Siler Road on a cold, gloomy pandemic morning at The Food Depot is a relic of the past.

“We have seen a persistent decrease in the number of people asking for help,” Dixon, deputy manager of the food bank, said one recent morning as workers mixed pallets of milk and dry goods around the floor of the house. ‘warehouse.

The Food Depot recently closed a distribution site in Santa Fe Place due to lower demand. But that doesn’t mean the hunger crisis is over.

“The food insecurity crisis that existed before the pandemic was already deeply unacceptable,” she said.

The local neighbor-to-neighbor campaign is The Food Depot’s largest annual fundraiser and is entering its 10th year.

Usually, the neighbor-to-neighbor campaign is a food drive. Due to the pandemic, the campaign switched to cash donations last year, when it raised more than $ 170,000 in 128 neighborhoods.

“Each year my goal was to increase,” said Linda Flatt, Founder of Neighbor to Neighbor. “Each year we were more successful in reaching people. The idea was to create a community.”

In 2020, the campaign attracted fewer participants. It’s easier for some to donate food they already have than cash, Flatt said.

But those who were able to give more, and this year, the organizers hope to raise $ 185,000.

For the first time, the drive is open to residents of Rio Arriba County as well as Santa Fe County.

Often times, people outside of Santa Fe don’t know they’re part of The Food Depot’s nine-county service area, Flatt said.

She started the neighbor-to-neighbor campaign 10 years ago. Now she is retired and has a group of volunteers to help coordinate the donations.

One of her favorite aspects of the campaign was the feeling of “friendly competition” between neighborhoods competing to collect the most food donations, which usually culminated with a live event on the third Saturday in September.

The event would include a presentation of trophies made from canned food.

“It just adds to that,” Flatt said.

As in 2020, the award ceremony this year will take place virtually.

Dixon said there were benefits to the reader being monetary donations only.

“From a simple business standpoint, money is much more flexible than food,” she said.

When a donor can buy a bag of pinto beans for $ 1.20, The Food Depot can buy them at a wholesale price of 15 cents a pound. With money, he can also better predict the types of offers he will offer to families and partner organizations.

This year, funds raised by Neighbor to Neighbor will help The Food Depot navigate a landscape altered by the coronavirus pandemic, which has wreaked havoc on the global supply chain.

One week, workers at meat processing plants and truck drivers could be sick with COVID-19, delaying shipments. Another, a food order from The Food Depot could be picked up by another buyer who needed it more, Dixon said of last year.

Even now, the rising price of materials such as cardboard boxes and aluminum cans has had an impact on what and how the organization can provide to the community.

“The balance between trying to stretch every dollar to provide as much nutritious food as possible while keeping the people we serve at the center of what we do is precarious,” Dixon said.

The sense of urgency in the midst of the pandemic has really exposed the vulnerabilities of the state’s anti-hunger efforts, Dixon said. Especially in sparsely populated areas already facing infrastructure problems.

In some rural pantries, Dixon added, there is only one person serving an entire community. And they might not have community space to store a lot of food.

“How close is this system to fight hunger to collapse?” ” she asked. “It’s part of something we’re starting to assess and plan for.”

Delia Garcia, 39, has lived in the Las Acequias neighborhood for four years. She was involved in the neighbor-to-neighbor campaign, but she also relied on The Food Depot.

“I have been on both ends of the spectrum,” she said.

“It can happen to anyone,” she added. “People can lose their jobs. People die. All of a sudden you have two kids and you weren’t expecting them.”

In 2015, Garcia’s friend passed away. The news left two elementary-aged children, McKenzie and Landan Lowance, in Garcia’s care. Now they are 12 and 13, respectively.

Garcia, a former caregiver, is disabled and relies on Social Security to take care of them. For this reason, she is not eligible for Supplementary Nutritional Assistance Program benefits.

Alone since her teenage years, Garcia has experienced food insecurity.

“It’s definitely something I’ve experienced more than once, and then there were times when I took a lot of people out to dinner and was able to buy it for everyone,” said she added. “It’s not always like that.”

The Food Depot estimates that one in six New Mexicans suffers from hunger.

As one of the state’s five food banks, it distributes over one million pounds of food and household items such as diapers and pet food annually, including about 875,000 meals per l ‘intermediary of partner agencies such as the non-profit association Kitchen Angels.

Kitchen Angels uses food from The Food Depot to prepare hot meals for people confined to the house, often due to illness.

Robert Griffin, 66, of Santa Fe began a month-long hospital stay for kidney failure earlier in the pandemic. After that, it was a month of rehabilitation and physiotherapy. He had to learn to walk again.

“I had to learn to do everything because I was so sick,” he said. “I was literally dying.”

Now Griffin is in good shape at home with his two cats, Butterball and Honey. But the circumstances of his illness make it difficult to leave home, that’s where Kitchen Angels comes in.

“They are absolutely essential. They are like a major artery in the community,” he said.

Griffin and Garcia are just a few who will benefit from the neighbor-to-neighbor campaign, which runs through September 18.

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