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Panic buying impedes Roadrunner Food Bank

Melanie Lewis, a volunteer with Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Community School Partnership, wears a face mask as a health precaution while sorting cans at the Roadrunner Food Bank. (Anthony Jackson/Albuquerque Journal)

Melanie Lewis, a volunteer with Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Community School Partnership, wears a face mask as a health precaution while sorting cans at the Roadrunner Food Bank. (Anthony Jackson/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Panic buying continues, and grocery store shelves seem to be emptied immediately after they’ve been restocked, as people face the possible need to isolate themselves at home for an unknown period to keep COVID-19 at bay.

That panic purchasing has had an impact on the Roadrunner Food Bank, since local grocery stores and retailers “haven’t had a lot of excess product for us to pick up,” said Roadrunner spokeswoman Sonya Warwick.

“People are going out and purchasing a lot of the items that would typically come to the food bank.”

As result, Roadrunner has reduced the number of pick-ups it does from its food partners because of the product shortages at those grocery stores and other retail sites, she said.

The good news is “we’re still getting food shipments in by tractor trailer load from sources that come primarily from out of state, and which is a large source of our food,” Warwick said. “That allows us to continue pushing food out to distribution points across the state.”

Roadrunner’s fleet of 15 tractor trailers provides food to hundreds of distribution sites across New Mexico, including other food banks, pantries, meal sites, senior centers and schools.

Empty shelves wait to be stocked at the Roadrunner Food Bank. Roadrunner provides food to hundreds of distribution sites across New Mexico.

Empty shelves wait to be stocked at the Roadrunner Food Bank. Roadrunner provides food to hundreds of distribution sites across New Mexico.

Typically, the food bank has about three weeks of food in reserve at its Albuquerque warehouse, and that has not changed dramatically, she said.

Roadrunner will accept donations from individuals of nonperishable food items but will put those donations on hold for several weeks before distributing them as a safety precaution to give time for any viruses on surfaces to die, Warwick said.

Monetary donations are even better.

“Those have the largest impact and allow us the flexibility to source food and whatever products we need to get during this crisis.” Further, she noted, for every one dollar monetary donation, the food bank can distribute up to five meals.

Roadrunner’s on-site medical referral food pantry will remain open, but only for people who have a chronic health condition, hunger and approved medical referrals. It is not available to the general public, she stressed.

Roadrunner also needs volunteers to sort and prep food in the warehouse. “Those helping hands are critical in our ability to get food out onto our trucks for delivery to communities across the state,” Warwick said.

In the last few weeks, about 200 volunteers have canceled. The food bank needs about 50 warehouse volunteers for any given shift. Under newly imposed social distancing safety rules, approved volunteers will work in groups of no more than 10, with the groups spaced widely apart in the warehouse, she said.

Volunteers are first screened verbally in a phone interview and told if they are feeling ill in the slightest not to come in. Those volunteers who are accepted are directed to wash their hands often, wear gloves and, depending on the types of foods they are handling, are provided lab coats.

“All of our sister food banks across the state, including Clovis, Farmington, Gallup and Santa Fe, are also seeing a reduction in volunteers,” Warwick said. “So we encourage people to volunteer to the extent that they are healthy and to the extent they are comfortable working for a local hunger relief organization in their communities.”

People who wish to volunteer at Roadrunner Food Bank should first register online at rrfb.org, or call 349-8841.


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