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Huge food donation headed to NM tribes

Emma Clinger and Max Nish on Tuesday handle boxes of donated food that will be sent to Native American communities in New Mexico that have been hit hard by the pandemic. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

A Tuesday donation of more than 60 tons of food to a warehouse in Albuquerque will ultimately translate into thousands of boxes of food being delivered to needy Native American communities in New Mexico – communities hit particularly hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

The donation and delivery was made possible by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from around the world who donated money saved from “fast offerings” to church headquarters in Salt Lake City, which then used the funds to purchase truckloads of food.

Those trucks dropped off pallets of nonperishable items to an Albuquerque warehouse that is owned by the state and managed by the Human Services Department. In the warehouse, church members and volunteers from state agencies filled boxes with about 26 pounds of food each, with an additional 10-pound bag of flour or pancake mix thrown in for good measure.

Project spokesman Brian Rule said the effort was spearheaded by a church elder, Dr. Maxsimo Torres, a physician from Clovis who “had been scouting for opportunities where we could bless the lives of others.”

bright spotState agencies and the state’s network of emergency operation centers handled logistics for distribution. The state also served as an intermediary with the tribes, which will allow the boxes of food to go out quickly to those Native American communities that “have been among the most vulnerable populations and hardest-hit by the pandemic,” Rule said.

“The whole point of this is to help relieve suffering and address one of the biggest concerns our governor has, which is food insecurity,” he said.

According to the 2019 Map the Meal Gap report from Feeding America, New Mexico is ranked worst in the nation in food insecurity, with more than 24% of those ages 18 and younger at risk of hunger.

“We wanted to support the Governor’s Hunger Initiative, because the only way we’re going to solve food insecurity in this state is through a public-private partnership and pulling all the resources together,” Rule said.

Torres said he hopes the food distribution effort “highlights a coming together of various faith-based groups, private organizations, state agencies and citizens to mitigate the effects of the pandemic.”

Melody Wells, a spokeswoman for the state Children, Youth and Families Department, said that since the beginning of the pandemic, teams working at emergency operation centers around the state, including teams from CYFD, have helped coordinate efforts, and to distribute and deliver more than 2 million pounds of food.

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