CERRILLOS – A few eye-catching vehicles have likely rolled through Cerrillos over the years, but nothing like it: a bookmobile that turned into a food van.
Painted in festive colors (heavy on turquoise), The Food Depots premiered the latest tool in the daily fight against hunger on Thursday at a distribution event in Cerrillos.
The Food Mobile will enable the only food bank in northern New Mexico to move much-needed supplies to underserved and hard-to-reach locations in the Santa Fe area.
“We believe that access to quality, decent and nutritious food is a human right,” said Sherry Hooper, Executive Director of Food Depot, speaking at the official launch. “The Food Mobile is one of our attempts to close this need, this gap. We’re starting small and taking on areas in and around Santa Fe that are very needy. “
At 11:00 a.m., the cars were waiting for the drive-thru service. The offer on Thursday included a range of produce, eggs, ground beef, canned food, fresh bread, cinnamon rolls and banana muffins. People were able to customize their food orders and choose what worked for them. Officials said 35 families had been served.
“It’s an absolutely brilliant conversion of a book mobile into a grocery mobile,” said Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber before delivering a brief speech at the distribution event. “Not only can people get food, but they also have the dignity to choose food on their terms in such a way that they respect it.”
For Blake Lundy, who works in the nearby gallery and store at Cerrillos Station, the Food Mobile’s presence was a welcome addition in a small town struggling economically during the pandemic.
“It was a challenge,” Lundy said of the economic burden.
Hooper said Cerrillos is one of many cities The Food Depot wants to support with its mobile food service.
“We would like to build a fleet of these and go to small communities that do not have the resources to provide their own famine relief,” she said.
The grocery depot’s assistant director Jill Dixon said the mobile service could be an asset to the nine counties the grocery bank serves.
“You are seeing huge gaps in southern Santa Fe and in our border and rural communities,” she said, referring to “food deserts” – areas with no access to affordable, high-quality food – in New Mexico.
“Cerrillos is a good example of this,” added Dixon. “You can see it even more when you go to a place like Rio Arriba [County]where people can go 30 or 40 miles one way to get groceries. “
The Coronavirus pandemic presented The Food Depot with major challenges from spring 2020. The arrival of the virus resulted in a large number of layoffs in New Mexico and exacerbated deep food insecurities across the state.
“We knew our communities were economically fragile,” said Dixon. “It was disappointing to see how quickly and how deeply people were in need.”
Within six days of the first pandemic-related shutdown in March, The Food Depot hosted its first drive-thru pantry event in Santa Fe. In the months that followed, distribution events attracted thousands to collect urgently needed groceries.
“The first couple of times the cars lined up for miles,” said Hooper.
By the end of the year, the food bank had given away around 11 million pounds of groceries.
“That’s enough food for more than 9.5 million meals,” said Hooper. “The pandemic has exposed vulnerabilities in our communities. These weak points persist. “
Dale Edwards, a resident of nearby Madrid, said having access to healthy food near his home was very welcome.
“The nearest major grocery store is far away,” said Dale. “I think that [the Food Mobile] is very important to the community. “