Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
As record numbers of New Mexicans are out of work and have filed for unemployment benefits, Roadrunner Food Bank is providing a record amount of food for distribution – even as its resources are being strained.
In March, the food bank distributed 3,371,345 pounds of food, up from March 2019, when it distributed 2,757,648 pounds, an increase of 22.25%, Roadrunner spokeswoman Sonya Warwick said this week.
In April, it distributed 3,962,728 pounds, up from April 2019, when the total was 3,313,331 pounds, an increase of 19.6%, she said.
In addition, Roadrunner is facing increased delivery times for food loads from out-of-state sources, as well as rising costs for shelf-stable food items.
“There are many new faces,” Warwick said, referring to the many first-time customers at distribution centers in the 16 New Mexico counties served by Roadrunner and the regional food banks.
“These are people who are brand new to food distribution because their unemployment benefits have not kicked in yet or they don’t have the ability to afford all the things they need right now,” she said. “Food is often the first thing that gets cut.”
The shelves are not empty inside Roadrunner’s Albuquerque warehouse, but the danger is that food sourced and ordered from out of state, which typically took no more than three weeks to deliver, is now taking eight weeks or more, and that’s only when it can be found, Warwick said.
“We have to be mindful of that to avoid a shortage of product in our warehouse to send back out into the network,” she said.
While produce is currently plentiful, shelf-stable products, such as canned, boxed or dry goods that do not have to be refrigerated, are the ones with delayed deliveries, Warwick said.
“We were jumping through hoops to try find a truckload of peanut butter recently. We found one and were able to get it sourced, but it’s not here yet. So it’s just harder now to find product that we would normally have no trouble getting into our warehouse.”
In addition, many of these shelf-stable food items are now costing more.
“We don’t know if it’s because the people we source the food from are seeing higher costs or if there are issues at their end that we don’t understand,” Warwick said. “We just know that we’ve been seeing more increased costs for those types of loads.”
For example, from about August to April, a case of pork and beans increased from $15.23 to $20.16; a case of spaghetti rose from $9.30 to $13.80; a case of spaghetti sauce climbed from $6.35 to $10.80; a case of canned corn surged from $6.40 to $15; and a case of beef ravioli shot up from $6.56 to $15.46.
Those prices included the cost of freight, Warwick said, adding that other food banks around the state are experiencing the same issues.
Roadrunner’s increased food purchases would have been more difficult if not for the “fortunate acquisition of large contributions to help us in our coronavirus effort and to expand food distributions,” Warwick said.
She pointed to a recent fundraiser by employees of Sandia National Laboratories, which raised more than $100,000, and a $289,000 contribution that was part of a $400,000 grant made to several food banks from the All Together New Mexico Fund, established by the New Mexico Coalition of Community Foundations.
Roadrunner is working to obtain as much food as possible locally and recently purchased 10 head of cattle from two local ranchers.
“That allowed us to supply some protein and add that into the mix of products we have available, but it took time to get it where it needed to go for processing, and then over to our warehouse.”
Another complication for Roadrunner is that during the pandemic-triggered food and product hoarding, the food bank has not received as many donated loads.
As always, Roadrunner welcomes donations of food, as well as donations of money and volunteer time, Warwick said.
Bank of America is currently matching monetary gifts up to $30,000 made to food banks, “which will help us to continue securing food products,” she said.
Anyone wishing to make a donation of food, money or time can call Roadrunner Food Bank at 247-2052. For information, go to rrfb.org.