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Pandemic lifeline

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

From left, Becca Mallory, Cami Mallory and their daughter, Faith Mallory, prepare to distribute food to families affected by the coronavirus pandemic. “I will not let a kid go hungry,” Cami said. (Anthony Jackson/Albuquerque Journal)

Eggs, milk, butter, luncheon meat and bread. What sounds like a typical shopping list has become a staple for food-insecure households during the COVID-19 pandemic.

That’s why Cami Mallory and her wife, Rebecca Mallory, started Families Feeding Families, a community program that redistributes food to families without access to transportation.

“It’s families feeding families in our neighborhood, in our community, donating money, donating food and donating supplies … for other families,” Cami said.

So far, the Mallorys have delivered food to more than a dozen families – roughly 75 people – since they embarked on the endeavor March 21. Cami said they wouldn’t have been able to do it without their neighbors responding to her posts on Facebook and NextDoor asking for groceries.

“All of the neighbors wanted to go to the store and buy food, not just give us food that has been sitting in their pantry that they might not eat,” Cami said. “One woman went to Costco and she bought $200 worth of food.”

To date, the family has spent at least $1,500 out of pocket to make sure children and families are fed.

Cami knows all about food insecurity. Growing up, her family didn’t have access to transportation, and it was hard for her to find a healthy meal. When she was a first grader, the only place where she could rely on a consistent meal was at her elementary school.

Though the Public Education Department has set up sites for children to collect meals since March 16, Cami wondered about the families that don’t have access to transportation.

“I remember being that child,” Mallory said.

Now, she makes sure every family is fed for 7 to 10 days with the food they send out.

The Mallorys’ first delivery was to a family in Socorro who “had nothing.”

Prepared for the three-hour trip, Cami, Rebecca and their daughter, Faith, packed up their cooler with food and drove out.

“If someone tells me that they have a child and they don’t have any food or they don’t have a way to get food, I don’t care if they live in Raton, I don’t care if they live in Truth or Consequences, I’m going to get them food,” Cami said. “I will not let a kid go hungry.”

One day a week, the Mallorys lay out everything they need to prepare for a trip that will take them around the city of Albuquerque or to Bernalillo. Teal bins are front and center in their garage as the family gathers supplies for distribution. They make sure every family has some sort of paper products, nonperishables, meat and, most importantly, fruits and vegetables. Up until they load everything into their car, they’re still accepting donations from good Samaritans.

Karen Peer, a manager for a chiropractic clinic, dropped off dog and cat food.

“I have pets and that’s important to me … I wanted to help in that area,” Peer said.

Jaren Smith, 11, opens his family’s refrigerator to organize groceries after they were delivered by the Mallorys. Jaren and his sister ran out of their apartment, excited to greet Cami and Becca Mallory and bring in the food they brought.

The Mallorys head out with their bins and car filled to the brim.

As they approach their first stop, two children run out of the apartment to greet them. Without having to be told, the children, younger than 12 and beaming, race up the stairs back to their home with a few bags in each hand.

Before their mother, Nadine Smith, could react, her son, Jaren Smith, started organizing the fridge and putting away groceries.

For Smith, Families Feeding Families has become a lifeline. Before the pandemic, she was a housekeeper for elderly clients she met while riding the city bus.

“Now I can’t do their housekeeping because they’re isolated,” Smith said.

If it weren’t for the donations, Smith wouldn’t know what she’d do.

“I’m thankful for my care package,” Smith said. “Me and my kids would have to make ends meet by feeding them less than (I usually would). It’s hard. I’m thankful for all they do for me.”