ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Rio Grande Food Project was serving over 3,500 kids, adults, and seniors food every month and distributed 1,313,101 pounds of groceries last year. While its work has always been critical, RBFP is adapting its service model to meet the growing need as safely as possible.
Executive director at the Rio Grande Food Project, Ari Herring discusses how the organization has adapted its services during the pandemic. The Rio Grande Food Project is a hunger-relief community hub and urban garden that provides locally grown, donated and purchased foods to households that are facing a financial struggle.
Operating the largest food pantry on Albuquerque’s west side, the Rio Grande Food Pantry features an urban community garden with fruits and vegetables and outside of the pandemic, offers monthly food box distribution. RGFP provides weekly health-tailored groceries one day a week to individuals referred by healthcare providers who are are food insecure and have a chronic health condition related to diet.
During the week of March 16, the Rio Grande Food Pantry had to suspend normal food distribution operations in an effort to maintain the health of its volunteers, staff, and clients as they operate in a small space and often work with those who are elderly and may be in poor health. Since mid-March the organization has adapted to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
RGFP has delivered over 24,000 pounds of food to vulnerable households in partnership with community partners including the Albuquerque Family Advocacy Center, New Mexico Child Advocacy Netwok, Albuquerque Healthcare for the Homeless, HopeWorks, and the Bernalillo County Shierff’s Office. They also have replaced their usual four days a week food distributions and is now working with the Roadrunner Food Bank to pack non-perishable food boxes.
RGFP now manages an outdoor-drive-thru food distribution that is blocks from its community food hub pantry location at 600 Coors Blvd. NW. A nearby church has allowed them to use their parking lot for the distribution and the organization will continue to do so until it is safe for them to return to their usual operations.
This drive-thru model requires around 35 volunteers to provide traffic control, box loading, and screening and registration.
RGFP continues its food rescue work where they pick up excess fods from local grocery stores and they continue to purchase food from Roadrunner Food Banks and additionally have access to USDA “commodity” foods and donations from local individuals and companies. The Rio Grande Food Project estimates that they will see anywhere from a 6% to 35% increase in food insecurity over the next 12 to 24 months and is striving to respond to this increased need.
For more information on food distributions, visit the Rio Grande Food Project’s website.