Supermarket food – where do the leftovers go, and why should we care?
Supermarket food: At the Roadrunner Foodbank in Albuquerque I joined eight folks from a Meetup group to lend a hand. I confess I didn’t know what they did there, except it was about food.What I imagined was a hard-scrabble organization, just getting by in a dilapidated building. I wore an old pair of jeans and a tattered T-shirt to be prepared for scrubbing floors, cleaning furniture, and painting walls. See more down below……
Also in this issue:
- New review for Weed and Water (by a website author called Deal Sharing Aunt)
- An image of heaven that will catch your eye.
To my surprise, the Roadrunner Foodbank was a large warehouse, with a clean and bright foyer and a large attractive mural on the walls. Who sponsors this organization, I wondered?
Has to be State government. The answer is donations (corporate and private) and State government. A volunteer greeted us, a young woman in her twenties, and explained that 70,000 hungry New Mexicans seek food assistance every week! Seventy thousand? This was the first shocker!
Wait a minute, my mind was saying. Where does the supermarket food come from? The volunteer explained that supermarket food is donated, unused food…..fresh food and canned food. How is the food distributed I asked? The fresh food gets sorted into four piles, she said, and that’s where you come in (laughter from everyone except me). I guess all the others knew what we would be doing!
After sorting, the supermarket food is delivered to charitable organizations called Agencies around the state who provide the food directly to people in need. Hunger is a constant problem for about 16% of the population in New Mexico. But only 11% of this 16% are homeless. The shocker is that 53% of these households include one employed adult. This opened up my eyes. Hunger is not only about food, the volunteer explained. It’s more about jobs and wages.
Further, 20% of people seeking food assistance were in poor health or dealing with a medical issue. Finally 30-40% of people served by Food Banks in New Mexico are children under 18. These statistics opened my eyes real wide.
We were led into a huge warehouse room, and donned aprons and plastic gloves. And here were boxes and boxes of unbought supermarket food….mainly from Smiths and Walmart. Our job for the next three hours was to sort the supermarket food into four piles: one with apples which would last 4 days.
One with firm peaches and watermelons that would last 2 days, and one with salads and soft peaches that would last only 1 day. Anything that was moldy or rotten went into a huge trash container for pig farmers (see picture). Lucky pigs!
I was impressed with a bunch of teenagers who showed up. There was a bus parked outside labeled as some local Methodist church. These kids worked hard, but were laughing as they lifted watermelons almost as heavy as they were. It was a convivial group spread across the ages…… from teens to seniors. All pitching in on a Tuesday afternoon to help people they will never meet.
I started sorting lettuce, went to carrots, and graduated to peaches and nectarines. I could handle this and was feeling good. But in the last hour here came the cherry tomatoes. And these nearly killed me. Hunting for and picking out the occasional tiny moldy squishy tomato from a box of 1,000 tomatoes was back-breaking. Don’t ever ask me to eat a cherry tomato again!
Despite the cherry tomatoes, it was gratifying to think I was helping some kid in elementary school get enough to eat, so that he could concentrate fully on his math or social science classes. Or that some senior living from hand-to-mouth would be able to eat a decent supper before watching a little TV and then crawling into a lonely bed.
My motto, Helping someone to hope, is a good life-guide for me……
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