Monday, July 29, 2019; Silver City, NM: Food panties from Catron, Grant, Hidalgo and Luna Counties are banding together to strengthen and unify their operations under the guidance of the National Center for Frontier Communities (NCFC), a nonprofit that works with the most isolated and remote communities in the nation.
“This was a very successful meeting! We are looking forward to the formal partnership and networking with other regional food pantries that share our same issues,” said Dotty Pfeifer of St. Frances Newman Center Association, which distributes food to about 120 clients a month from their food pantry in Silver City.
This was the third convening of the food pantries hosted by NCFC to build regional collaborative efforts and opportunities to participate in bulk sales to increase distribution of locally grown food through its Southwest New Mexico Food Hub.
“It’s more than sales,” said Ben Rasmussen, Manager of the Southwest New Mexico Food Hub. “They are building a foundation for a larger impact by these remote food pantries that are at the end-of-the-line so to speak in the distribution chain. It is chance to combine their efforts for fundraising, grant writing, volunteer coordination and, thanks to our grants from Single Socks and the United Way of Southwest New Mexico, we can have access to locally-grown food at bulk prices which expands our regional economy.”
Such services as food pantries which offer supplemental food to those in need are desperately needed in New Mexico.
New Mexico ranked 50th in the nation for childhood hunger according to Map the Meal Gap 2019 report from Feeding America. The national report found 24.1 percent of children age 18 and younger in New Mexico, that’s one of every four children, are at risk of childhood hunger and food insecurity. And most at-risk? Frontier counties in New Mexico that lack access to resources for food and areas in which residents are required to travel long distances to access existing resources like food pantries.
The four-county region the participating food panties serve an area the size of the combined states of Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, but with a combined population of 63,000, which is smaller than most eastern towns. The region’s median household income is $35,478, only slightly above the 2018 Federal Poverty Guideline to qualify for assistance for a family of four at $34,638, set at 138 percent of poverty.
“All the food pantries are heavily reliant on volunteers to keep the most-vulnerable in their community fed,” noted Rasmussen.
One such volunteer board member is JoAnn Collins of the Gila Valley Community Partners. She says their recently upgraded food pantry, previously a mobile food pantry, feeds over 85 families in Buckhorn, Cliff, Gila, Mule Creek and Redrock.
“I think there is a good potential benefit for tiny isolated communities to band together as a larger group and get more done,” said Collins.
Hidalgo County Food Pantry’s Beth Cox was there to collaborate with other frontier food pantries. “Last month we served 210 households, about 600 people because many of our clients are seniors,” said Cox, program specialist with the Center for Health Innovation.
The regional efforts have already garnered the attention of the Roadrunner Food Bank. Las Cruces Office Manager Shelby Stuckel attended the meeting to learn more about NCFC and “to see our partners face to face.” Struckel was interested to learn “how we can help work together in the pantry network and with the Southwest New Mexico Food Hub.”
This convening included such food panties as The Commons: Center for Food Security and Sustainability, Gila Valley Community Partners, Hidalgo County Food Pantry, Mimbres Valley Health Action League, Roadrunner Food Bank, St. Francis Associates, The Well and Yes Housing.
“It’s always a challenge to gather so many pantries from such a large region in one place,” said Rasmussen. “We will be hosting follow up meetings to carry forth action plan and hope by offering digital options for participation we can reach our goal of maximum inclusion.”
According to Rasmussen, the regional coordination efforts were a success with “good practical, actionable steps to realize goals like group fundraising, bulk purchasing, and coordinate food panties to reach the benefit the larger region.”
Lucy Potts of St. Frances Newman Center Association stated the more fundamental reason all the frontier food pantries were participating in the collaboration efforts, “To get together with other food pantries, we will be more successful at meeting needs of Grant Country and the region!”
For more information on NCFC contact Rasmussen at (575) 597-0032 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website at http://frontierus.org/.