CERRILLOS – Some eye-catching vehicles have probably rolled around Cerrillos over the years, but nothing like this: a bookmaker turned into Free Food.
Painted in festive colors (heavy on turquoise), the Warehouse’s newest tool in the daily battle against hunger made its debut Thursday at a distribution event in Cerrillos.
Food Mobile, officials say, will allow North Mexico’s only food bank to relocate supplies to under-served and hard-to-reach places around the Santa Fe area.
“We believe that access to quality and adequate and nutritious food is a human right,” Food Depot Executive Director Sherry Hooper said in a keynote address. “Food Mobile is one of our efforts to fill that need, that gap. We will start small and take it through the areas in and around Santa Fe that are most in need.”
By 11 a.m., cars had started lining up for service through the car. Thursday’s offerings included a range of products, eggs, ground beef, canned products, fresh bread, cinnamon rolls and banana muffins. People were free to personalize their food order and choose everything that worked for them. Officials said 35 families were served.
“It’s an absolutely brilliant repositioning of a book machine on a food cell phone,” Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber said before delivering a short speech during the distribution event. “People not only can get food, but have the dignity to choose food according to their conditions in a way that respects them.”
For Blake Lundy, who works in the gallery and shops near Cerrillos Station, the presence of Food Mobile was a welcome addition to a small town that has struggled economically during the pandemic.
“It has been a challenge,” Lundy said of the economic tension.
Hooper said Cerrillos is one of the many cities the Food Warehouse would like to help with through 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 do their job of alleviating hunger,” she said.
Deputy Director of Food Depot Jill Dixon said mobile service could be an asset to the nine counties served by the food bank.
“You see huge gaps in southern Santa Fe and on our borders and rural communities,” she said, referring to the “food deserts” – areas that do not have access to affordable and quality food – in New Mexico.
“Cerrillos is a good example of this,” Dixon added. “You see it even more when you go out to a place like Rio Arriba [County]”where people can drive 30 or 40 miles in a way to get food.”
The coronavirus pandemic posed major challenges for Food Warehouses, beginning in the spring of 2020. The arrival of the virus led to a large number of layoffs in New Mexico, exacerbating the deep food insecurities that exist across the state.
“We knew our communities were quite economically fragile,” Dixon said. “It was a gap to see how deeply and quickly people needed it.”
Within six days of the first pandemic-related closure on Mars, the Food Depot held its first drive event in Santa Fe. In the months that followed, distribution events attracted thousands who came to get much-needed food.
“Early on, cars lined up for miles,” Hooper said.
By the end of the year, the food bank had provided about milion 11 million in food.
“This is enough food for more than 9.5 million meals,” Hooper said. “The pandemic exposed vulnerabilities in our communities. These vulnerabilities persist.”
Dale Edwards, a resident of nearby Madrid, said access to healthy food near his home is most welcome.
“The nearest grocery store is far away,” Dale said. “I think this [the Food Mobile] it’s very important to the community. “