Food bank seeks donation needed for expansion

Liliana Castillo

The Food Bank of Eastern New Mexico received a donation of $150,000. There’s one catch; it needs to match it by Dec. 1.

Executive Director Nancy Taylor said the money was donated by a foundation in Texas that wishes to remain anonymous. Taylor said money will be used toward refrigeration expansion. The food bank has trouble housing what is called wet food — food that needs to be refrigerated or frozen — and sometimes has to deny shipments.

Taylor said she hopes to add 1,700 square feet of freezer and refrigeration space on an insulated pad in the back of the facility, as well as 1,800 square feet for a staging area.

“That way our agencies can drive a truck in and have it loaded with refrigerated product,” Taylor said. “It will free up two warehouse slots in order to better serve our agencies.”

The freezer the food bank uses now is less than 350 square feet and everything has to be hand-loaded into it because the door is too small to move a palette through. The freezer was made in 1977 and donated to the food bank in 2003. The refrigerator is about 450 square feet and has an overhead door but is so old it is falling apart, Taylor said.

“It’s old. It has lived past its time,” Administrative Assistant LaDean Jameson said. “We’re getting more requests for food and we need new space to put it.”

The food bank receives food each week. Rusty Miller, the food bank’s accountant, said they call each week for a list in advance to make sure they can accept what is being sent.

“We do not and cannot control when we receive USDA commodities. If we don’t take it then it goes to some other area,” Miller said. “It’s real sad thinking about our people not getting food because we can’t house it.”

The food bank has about $19,000 on hand for the matching funds so far.

Miller said the new freezer and refrigerator will cost the food bank less in utilities.

“It will be more energy efficient,” she said. “The freezer being over 35 years old, we will end up having to spend money one way or the other to replace it.”

The food bank pays about $300 almost every other month to repair the freezer.

“When a semi comes in and half of it is wet food, we’re struggling,” Taylor said.

Miller said the lack of freezer space prohibits the food bank from doing its job.

“We have real food, full of protein and nutrients, that we can’t store,” she said.