RoadRunner Food Bank: Helping New Mexico Stay Fed

December 21, 2022

“The mission of the Healthy Foods Center is to provide healthy and nutritious food to not only relieve hunger,” Warwick explained, “but to also help manage diet-related health conditions, and their impacts.

How a food bank works. Graphic courtesy of RoadRunner Foodbank

RoadRunner Food Bank is the largest nonprofit in New Mexico dedicated to solving food insecurity state wide.

Sonya Warwick,  Director of Communications and Events for RoadRunner Food Bank of New Mexico, explains that their team is moving into a very busy time of year.

Teamwork makes the dream work

“We’re always busy, but the pandemic took a toll on aid agencies statewide,” Warwick said. “A food bank such as RoadRunner is typically a warehouse that collects food and then distributes it to food pantries, but in New Mexico there are very rural areas where food pantries didn’t have staff in the pandemic, and in those cases we did some distribution to people ourselves.”

What a food bank does

The terms, “food bank” and “food pantry” sound similar but have different missions. As the graphic at the top of this article shows, a food bank collects food from many different sources whether they be donations, irregular looking (but edible) produce from grocery stores, and more.

All the food is sorted and then matched up against the areas served.  At RoadRunner, they directly deliver food to 16 counties in New Mexico, and indirectly serve the other 17.

Sorting cereal

“By indirectly serve, we mean that  we deliver food to organizations outside our own,” said Warwick. She offered an example and explained, “Say there is a town with no food pantry, so a church or school steps in to fill that role in the community. RoadRunner works with them to bring them food that they then distribute in their community.”

RoadRunner Warehouse

Healthy Foods Center

RoadRunner goes above and beyond in their service to the community. The Healthy Foods Center is one of many examples.

“We have partnered with health care providers and physicians who screen for social and hunger issues,” Warwick said. “Then they can prescribe their patients in need to visit us at the Healthy Foods Center.”

“The mission of the Healthy Foods Center is to provide healthy and nutritious food to not only relieve hunger,” Warwick explained, “but to also help manage diet-related health conditions, and their impacts.

“We deliberately made relationships with health care entities so we can demonstrate the need that exists in concrete ways people can understand. Patients are getting nutritious food which helps when facing poverty, and when faced with health issues.”

Feeding America Partner

Feeding America is the largest charity in the United States working to solve food insecurity with their stated mission, “to advance change in America by ensuring equitable access to nutritious food for all in partnership with food banks, policymakers, supporters, and the communities we serve.”

In practical terms, it means that Feeding America has over 200 partners nationwide, and RoadRunner Food Bank of New Mexico is one of them.

“Feeding America is a powerful partner that does great work,” Warwick said. “They make it possible for their downstream food bank partners like us to trade with other food banks. Sometimes we have more of something another state can use, and vice versa.”

Packaging food for delivery

The situation today

“Many of the food pantries that closed during the pandemic have started to reopen,” Warwick said, “And that’s great, but not all of them have. We are going to keep doing direct service through the end of the year,” she said.

Direct service is where RoadRunner sets up their parking lot to take vehicles, one at a time, and distribute food to families.

“It helps fill the holes in distribution,” Warwick said, “and we’re glad to do it.”

She said today RoadRunner has a fleet of trucks and two locations: Albuquerque and Las Cruces.

“At the end of the day,” Warwick said, “our role is simple: to provide food to those who might not get access to it.”

Direct Service allows those in need to drive up and receive food