Commodities program works to assist area residents

By Casey Peacock: PNT Staff Writer

The Food Bank of Eastern New Mexico strives to provide monthly commodities to residents in the eastern part of the state, something that is becoming more difficult to do, according to executive director Nancy Taylor.

“It (food bank) distributes over 200 million pounds of food to the needy, ill or elderly through caring, non-profit organizations,” Taylor said.

Serving 42 sites across eastern New Mexico, Taylor is restricted in what she is able to provide. The food bank has no control over the amount of food that is received in shipments, she said.

“We distribute what is assigned to our area,” Taylor said.

Food that is received from the state for the food bank is based on a formula that shows the population and number of people in the area that are at the poverty level. Those numbers are then divided by the number of food banks in New Mexico, Taylor said.

Some months the shipments received are well below the average and this is when the food bank chooses to hold the food until the following month, in the hopes that more food will be received. Economics also play a role in choosing to hold the shipment for the following month. Many clients of the food bank have to travel many miles to reach the distribution sites and can cost them quite a bit in fuel. By holding the shipments, cost are kept down by both the food bank and the clients, Taylor said.

The cost involved in delivering to the distribution sites is picked up by the food bank and is not reimbursable. The food bank is responsible for the trucks, drivers, warehouse help, fuel and insurance, Taylor said.

“We are able to take commodities to these sites because we have a very kind and generous board of directors,” Taylor said.

Families that have children who receive free school lunches automatically qualify for the commodities. Site coordinators are responsible for determining who else qualifies to receive the commodities, said Taylor.

Site coordinators are comprised of volunteers who take the time to distribute the commodities to those in their community or area, Taylor said.

Kim Tullous, manager of Golden Acres in Portales, is the site coordinator for the 100 low income housing apartments. When the commodities arrive she is responsible for the filling out of paperwork, setting up the site, sorting and distributing the commodities, she said.

“Some residents really need them. It’s very important for the residents, (as) they ask about the commodities all the time,” Tullous said.

Tullous went on to say that the residents of Golden Acres are on fixed incomes and commodites distributions are a big help to them, she said.

Not only is the food bank responsible for commodities, but they also have other area programs. One is the backpack program which distributes a backpack with quick foods, such as canned fruit, with pop tops for children to take home over the weekends. Currently the program is in Curry County with hopes to soon have the program available in Roosevelt County, Taylor said.

The “I Still Care” program is geared for people that may be sick or hurt and have no family in the area. One employee calls individuals, beginning at 6 a.m. to check on them. Upwards of 70 people are called each day. If the client is not reached, the proper authorities are contacted to conduct a more in depth welfare check, Taylor said.

Taylor said, “It doesn’t have to be a senior it can be anybody that may need help.”