Food pantries in the East Mountains and Estancia Valley area are continuing to help community members survive the pandemic.
Linda Smith, executive director of Bethel Community Storehouse, said that during the first few months of the pandemic, she saw a decline in people coming in for food boxes because of the extra help they were getting from the government. But recently, she said, that has changed.
“As soon as the extra unemployment money ran out along with some of the other programs [the government] was doing, we saw a definite increase last week,” she said. “So, we’re expecting that to just continue at this time.”
Cindy Hunt, a manager at East Mountain Food Pantry, said they’ve experienced an increase as well.
“I don’t have a figure off the top of my head, but I know that we’ve had over 100 new clients since the pandemic broke out,” she said.
Linda Warren, who runs the food pantry at Enchantment Legacy, a home healthcare service, also said there has been a difference since people started receiving more government help.
“Our demand is actually fairly steady,” she said. “I do notice a difference since they increased the SNAP benefits. Before people would say, ‘I have no food in my house, can you please help us do something?’ Now they just come in and pick up their box and now since they’ve received SNAP benefits, we have not heard the desperation quite so much.”
But some food pantries have experienced the opposite.
Keeara Flynn, who works at St. Vincent De Paul in Estancia, said “there hasn’t been too much of a spike actually. You know, the last few weeks it has seemed like there have been less people than normal.”
Candace Bell, who works in the office at Valley View Christian Church in Edgewood, said that while she doesn’t know the exact reason why, she does know fewer households have come to pick up food.
“I can tell you that we’ve had fewer people, actually coming through,” she said. “We used to average probably … a little over 100, probably 120 households that used to be served before this, and now I want to say it’s again, not hard and fast, but it’s dropped by probably 40 households.”
Bell said she can only give an impression as to why people aren’t coming to Valley View’s food pantry, but speculated it could be because they don’t want to risk exposure to the virus, especially if they’re not in desperate need for food.
Another reason for the decline, she said, might be the social aspect of coming to food pantries.
“People would come in and have a meal we’d serve from our kitchen inside, and then they’d get to go through with a shopping basket and actually take what they wanted and leave what they didn’t,” Bell said. “Nowadays we pre-fill with pre-packaged stuff and everybody gets essentially the same thing without getting to opt for this, that, or the other thing. It’s a slightly different formula that may turn people down. I know some people really just enjoy the social aspect of it because they got to sit down with a meal before and visit with folk while they waited.”
Bell also said that because the number of households Valley View Church serves has gone down, they are not hurting for volunteers and resources at the moment.
Warren said she contributes Enchantment Legacy’s continued success to the board members of the company.
“We’re doing okay … due to the generosity of our board,” she said. “We get a list of [what food] is coming and if it looks fairly shallow they allow me to go to Smith’s or Walmart and purchase additional items to give out to make sure [people are] getting a nice box. We have a core group of volunteers that shows up each and every month that helps us put it on that allows us to take care of everybody.”
But Smith said that Bethel could use more resources and volunteers to help with the influx they’ve seen.
“There’s more and more people asking for help now, and Roadrunner [Food Bank] is short, plus we’re short on helping hands,” she said.
Smith said that Bethel has been in operation for 33 years, and this pandemic has been on par with other times the community has gone through struggles.
“I think it rivals some of the tragedies,” she said. “It’s a very tough time for people. We have the privilege of sitting and visiting with our clients and so we know what they’re going through. We know how hard it is. We hear their story too.”
Here’s a list of food pantries that help with the East Mountain and Estancia valley communities:
Bethel Community Storehouse
Thrift store and food pantry serving central New Mexico.
1719 4th St, Moriarty
Dr. Saul Community Center
The third Tuesday of every month from 12 p.m. until the food is gone. Roadrunner food bank distributes the food here.
109 N Roosevelt Ave, Mountainair
The third Tuesday of every month in the afternoon. Enchantment Legacy covers Torrance County, southern Santa Fe County, and Eastern Bernalillo County.
514 Williams Ave, Estancia
East Mountain Food Pantry
“The East Mountain Food Pantry serves families who live in the area that is bounded on the west by Carnuel, and on the east by Lexco Road. The villages of Golden and Chilili mark the area boundaries on the north and the south, respectively,” their website says.
1342 NM-333 Suite B, Tijeras
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic Church
The second Thursday of every month from 8:30 – 11:00 a.m. Food boxes are open to everybody and anybody.
215 Girard Ave, Moriarty
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church:
The fourth Tuesday of every month from 8:00 – 11:00 a.m. Food boxes are open to everybody and anybody.
85 NM-344, Edgewood
St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store
Rosa Ornelas, president of the organization, said that she will give food to anyone that needs help. No ID or proof of residence is required.
217 Broadway, Mountainair
Valley View Christian Church
The fourth Thursday of every month from 4:00 – 6:00 p.m. Registration is prior to 4:00 p.m., Bell said. Valley View Church covers the smaller mountain communities, Bell said. Proof of ID and physical address is needed to receive food.
170 NM 344, Edgewood