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A helping hand: Local nonprofit aims to parlay Giving Tuesday into a united effort to stomp out food insecurity in NM

A volunteer with Food is Free Albuquerque helps harvest fruit from someone’s backyard. (Courtesy Food Is Free Albuquerque)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A group that helps feed local families hopes to change the culture of Giving Tuesday this year.

Food is Free Albuquerque wants to encourage others to donate not just to their organization, but to other nonprofits that help in the mission to address food insecurity in the Albuquerque area.

The charity group is calling the effort the “Giving Tuesday CommUNITY Donation: Solidarity, Not Charity.”

“Take the issue of food insecurity – our organization is a very small piece of the puzzle,” said FIFABQ managing director Trista Teeter. “Without other organizations like food banks, farms, shelters, etc. doing what they do best, we would not be able to function.”

Donations to Food is Free Albuquerque will be used to pay for gas and purchase equipment for harvesting events. Volunteers from the organization harvest unused food and distribute it within the community.

Food is Free began in Austin and the Albuquerque branch sprung up in 2014 after Teeter and executive director Erin Garrison noticed fruit trees around the city not being used. They put out an ad asking people if they could harvest their extra fruit trees and ended up with 200 pounds of food. It was more than they would ever need.

They decided to find a way to distribute that food to those in need.

These apples were harvested by volunteers from Food is Free Albuquerque and will go to families experiencing food insecurity.

“We offer to go into backyards and harvest food growing there that they will not use,” Garrison said. “We have upwards of 30 volunteer during harvesting season from May to October.”

They formed partnerships with local food banks and other organizations that already had the resources and established system to distribute food including Silver Leaf Farms, Food Not Bombs and Rio Grande Food Project.

“Partnering with Food is Free Albuquerque and Silver Leaf Farms has been incredible,” said Food Not Bombs member Melissa Brandenburg. “We have literally received thousands of pounds of organic produce – all of which has been absolutely gorgeous – that would have otherwise been turned into compost. We’ve been able to feed our houseless community as well as redistribute to other local organizations, including but not limited to Child of All Nations, Black Fathers Movement NM, and The Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice weekly food pantry.”

A truck sits idle during a Food is Free Albuquerque harvest event. The nonprofit group harvests and donates unwanted food to local groups who help families in need.

This year was different for everyone because of Covid-19. Not only did Food is Free Albuquerque have fewer volunteers, the pandemic brought some things to light.

“We really, really saw how much we need one another,” Garrison said. “We are in this together. It takes all of us to fight food insecurity in our community.”

Harvested fruit on its way to an organization that will share the food with those in need.

Garrison and Teeter are asking the community to consider giving 50% of what they planned to donate to Food is Free Albuquerque to their community partners who have really helped them during the pandemic. They are hoping other organizations do the same thing.

Visit fifabq.org/givingtuesday to fill out a donation form. There is an option to donate half to another organization.

The annual day of giving will take place this year on Dec. 1.

Giving Tuesday is a global movement that started in 2012 with the idea of encouraging people to help others. It has become a global movement and happens each year during the holiday season. Participants can show their generosity by donating money or time, helping a neighbor or friend with a task, or just showing up for someone who needs it.

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