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Balloon Fiesta Cancellations Help Feed the Hungry

Employee of the Week: Theresa Alling

October 11, 2013


Albuquerque- Today Mayor Richard J. Berry honored a city employee who went out of her way to see that those in need benefit from cancelled Balloon Fiesta events. Theresa Alling, a supervisor with the Environmental Health Department’s Consumer Health Protection Division, saw an opportunity to give large amounts of unconsumed, freshly made food, to those who need it most. Alling, worked with a local restaurateur, Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta (AIBF), and local homeless centers that fed the hungry to turn an unfortunate situation into something very positive.

During last year’s Balloon Fiesta Alling noticed that large amounts of untouched food was going to waste when scheduled events at AIBF were being cancelled due to inclement weather.  She saw an opportunity to turn the situation to an advantage, and approached local restaurateur Jim Schumacher about her observations.  Mr. Schumacher owns Scarpas Brick Oven Pizza and The Cooperage; The Cooperage prepares large amounts of food for VIP events at the Fiesta on the Green facility during AIBF.  He agreed that there was a tremendous opportunity to have the food donated to organizations that feed the needy.

Alling undertook the process of making all of the necessary arrangements for the donations at this year’s Balloon Fiesta.  She worked with Jennifer Garcia, the Concession Manager for AIBF, who in turn garnered the support of the organizations who sponsor the catering of this food. Garcia has also worked with Alling in getting logistics coordinated, including providing special passes that will facilitate the food being picked up.  Alling then met with Julie Anderson, the Food Sourcing Liaison for Roadrunner Food Bank, and helped work out important food safety issues; such as adequate temperature control of the food and appropriate containers to be used for transport.  They also coordinated when food will be available, how it can be picked up, and by whom.  Danny Whatley of Noonday Ministries was then designated as the point of contact for available food, should a fiesta event be cancelled.

While the Consumer Health Protection Division would normally be involved in such an arrangement in a regulatory sense, to oversee food handling and food safety, it is particularly exceptional when one of the staff of that Division goes above and beyond to actually conceive and orchestrate such an outcome. The amount of work and dedication that Alling has put into this new facet of Balloon Fiesta is truly remarkable. It shows that common sense, hard work, and devotion can accomplish great things. Theresa Alling is an outstanding employee who has made a major difference in her community by feeding the hungry of Albuquerque.