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The Roadrunner Food Bank Helps Vulnerable Families in New Mexico

By S. Mathur

Perhaps one of the most telling signs of overall economic distress is the persistence of the problem of food security for large sections of the population. Sonya Warwick, Communications Officer at the Roadrunner Food Bank in Albuquerque, NM outlines the extent of the problem: "Hunger is a serious issue in our state. We rank #4 for childhood hunger and #8 for hunger overall among all U.S. states. One out of 5 people is at risk of hunger, and it is worse for children with 1 in 3 at risk of hunger. Low wages force the poor into our food lines every month. They simply are not able to afford food with their limited income and everything else too."

The food bank has been serving all of New Mexico since 1980, but has seen increasing numbers of people in need of help to feed their families. Warwick says, "Every week, we provide enough food to touch the lives of 70,000 hungry people. Even though we had a record year in terms of pounds and meals distributed (30 million pounds), we still need access to more food. Feeding America's latest Map the Meal Gap report shows that more than 63 million meals are missing from our state. So for every meal we provide, we still need to provide nearly two more."

The problem of hunger does not exist in isolation, of course, but is connected to larger issues of poverty and low wages. Low wages mean that even those who have jobs are forced to turn to food banks or public assistance in order to merely survive. The Roadrunner Food Bank, in alliance with other local groups and businesses, also attempts to provide access to other services, such as healthcare, produce-only food distributions, application assistance with SNAP (food stamp) benefits and more.

The Food Bank also provides direct service programs such as their Mobile Food Pantry program, their Childhood Hunger Initiative and their Senior Hunger Initiative. These programs are designed to meet the needs of vulnerable groups like senior and children and supply food to underserved communities and areas. Their Food Rescue program saves edible food from being thrown away and makes it available to its network of hunger-relief partners to distribute to hungry people. Food rescue represents the largest source of food for the Food Bank.

Roadrunner Food Bank is the local member of Feeding America, the nation's largest network of food banks. The food bank relies on donations and volunteers to carry out its mission. For those who want to know how they can help, Warwick has some simple and direct advice: "Give. For every $1 given to the Food Bank, we are able to distribute 5 meals. Volunteer. It takes a small army of helpful hands to help us prep food for distribution." Call 505-349-5358 to set up a two-hour slot to volunteer.

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