Seniors 65 and older are the fastest growing population in the United States, and often, seniors live on fixed incomes. Having access to a food pantry can make a difference for seniors.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico (BCBSNM) is committed to helping feed those in need in our local communities. That’s why we partnered with Roadrunner Food Bank to sponsor mobile food pantries at the Bernalillo Senior Center in Bernalillo and the Villa Nueva Senior Apartments in Albuquerque. The mobile food pantry program began in 2015 with a $60,000 award from BCBSNM to Roadrunner Food Bank’s Senior Hunger Initiative to fund food drops at these two locations, delivering over 5,000 pounds of food to the Bernalillo location and nearly 3,000 pounds of food to Villa Nueva each month.
Desi Aragon, Site Supervisor at the Bernalillo Senior Center said, “Having access to this food pantry has had a tremendous impact on the community and the seniors. There are limited food banks in Bernalillo, and with this mobile site, they are able to access food to supplement what they may not have.”
Janis Johnson, Property/Asset Manager at Villa Nueva Senior Apartments adds, “These residents make under 50 percent of what the city of Albuquerque as a whole makes. I think the seniors count on it. It’s a good $40-$50 easily that they don’t have to spend.”
Through the mobile food pantry, a truckload of food is distributed using a farmer’s market-style setup where the seniors choose to take what they need. And do they have choices! Among the variety of options are fresh fruits and vegetables; breads; applesauce; frozen foods, including meats and potatoes; and salad mixes. Lenore Armijo is a resident at Villa Nueva. She says, “When they have fresh produce, it is a great day. When there are vegetables, I’m in heaven.”
The Bernalillo Senior Center sees about 80-100 consumers each month, and the Villa Nueva Senior Apartments serve 44 residents. Food is equally distributed per person on a first come, first served basis, but Aragon says, “The seniors never complain about the amount. They are happy to receive whatever they can.” Henry Padilla and Rita Benavidez are residents, but they also volunteer at the Villa Nueva food pantry by unloading boxes, sorting and displaying food, and delivering food back to residents’ apartments for those who are unable to do so themselves. Both struggle with diabetes and say that the food pantry provides them with nutritious options. Padilla says, “We’ve been healthier since the pantry started,” and Benavidez adds, “My blood sugar levels have gone down.”
They also enjoy the fellowship that the food pantry brings. Villa Nueva residents participate in a monthly potluck where the majority of dishes brought are made with items from the food pantry. It’s an opportunity for residents to share food and socialize. “This is a fun thing,” said Padilla. Ms. Johnson believes that this is a program that the seniors have embraced and really appreciate. She says, “It really goes to helping them sustain more successful and happy living. This has been a blessing to all of the residents here, so thank you.”
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