New Mexico Volunteers Help Fight Food Insecurity
Monday, April 3, 2023
Those who give voluntarily of their time take center stage during April's National Volunteer Month. And New Mexico's Roadrunner Food Bank wants more volunteers to experience the rewards of helping others.
The Food Bank, like many nonprofit organizations, lost some of its regular volunteers during the pandemic - said Barbara Guenther, the manager of volunteer programs for Roadrunner. She said she's a firm believer that volunteer work should be fun.
"I always feel like with volunteering, sometimes people aren't really sure what they're getting into," said Guenther, "but if they can just get there and get their foot in the door, and kind-of get a little bit of experience - if that's a great experience - it's much easier to get them to come back."
The monthlong recognition of volunteers is an extension of National Volunteer Week, April 16 through the April 22 - first established in 1974.
Food from Roadrunner and other hunger-relief organizations will be in greater demand this year, since Congress has ended pandemic-related emergency benefits to households that participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Guenther said Roadrunner isn't a food pantry, but rather a food bank - operating a warehouse that includes a production center, where volunteers typically work two-hour shifts.
Volunteers sort produce and dry and canned goods which are delivered by truck to food pantries, senior centers, group homes, shelters, school partners and other locations.
"We get bulk food donations often," said Guenther, "so what we do is take those 50- or 100-pound bags of pinto beans or black beans, and repack them into 12- or 16-ounce bags that a family can use."
Roadrunner also offers mobile markets - smaller trucks sent to highly underserved communities with little access to fresh produce, or where Guenther says residents have fewer grocery stores or healthy food options.
"So," said Guenther, "we pack things up in a truck and once a month, they drive the truck out there, pull everything out, so that folks from the community can come and have that ability to get fresh fruits and vegetables, in particular, and healthier options for dry goods and canned goods."
She said of the millions of pounds of food and meals distributed to those facing hunger, nearly 30% is vegetables and fresh fruit.
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