June 17, 2014
Albuquerque, NM—Mayor Richard J. Berry will recognize several partners involved in facilitating donations of large amounts of untouched food to those who are hungry in the community. This food would have otherwise been left unused and wasted following special events. This is a collaborative arrangement made possible by partnerships between Ovations Food Services – the official food service provider of Isotopes Park, Roadrunner Food Bank, Noon Day Ministries, St. Martin’s Hospitality Center and Joy Junction. The program is overseen by the City of Albuquerque Environmental Health Department to ensure that food safety concerns are mitigated.
“We are pleased to be a partner in this initiative which serves some of the most vulnerable folks in our community by connecting those who are hungry with food,” Mayor Berry said. “I commend the efforts of all involved.”
A prepared food rescue pilot program was started at the 2013 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. The program continues to expand as the Environmental Health Department, which permits and oversees food handling at special events, and Roadrunner Food Bank work together to look for suitable events where large amounts of food could potentially go to waste.
“I kept seeing these events being organized where a lot of food was going to be prepared, and in many cases hundreds of pounds wouldn’t end up being used. It just seemed like such a shame to see it go to waste,” said Theresa Alling, the Environmental Health Supervisor who helped spearhead the pilot program at AIBF last fall. Ms. Alling was recognized by Mayor Berry as Employee of the Week at the time.
The program expanded this year by adding several special public events such as the Renaissance Festival, and most of the Albuquerque Isotopes baseball games. To date, the Environmental Health Department and Roadrunner Food Bank estimates more than 11,163 pounds of food has been rescued, providing an estimated 9,302 meals to hungry people through this new initiative..
According to FoodRescue.net, more than 40% of the food in America goes to waste. Hunger relief organizations capture a significant amount food through what is known as food rescue. Food rescue is defined as the practice of safely retrieving edible food that would otherwise go to waste, and distributing it to those in need. Food rescue keeps good and edible food from being thrown away and keeps it out of landfills. In New Mexico, a significant part of food rescued all around the state comes from local grocers, food manufacturers, growers, farmers and food wholesalers.
The partnership between the City’s Environmental Health Department (EHD) and local hunger relief organizations introduces the idea of rescuing prepared foods, a newer concept in New Mexico. Roadrunner Food Bank works with both EHD and its affiliated feeding agencies to coordinate details of rescuing prepared foods at large scale, public events.
Melody Wattenbarger, president and CEO of Roadrunner Food Bank said, “Food banks across the country started by rescuing food in the 1970’s. Right now, New Mexico is #1 for childhood hunger and #4 for overall hunger. With these staggering figures, we need to look at new ways we can capture food. We are proud of and thrilled to bring this new service to our affiliated partners. Our role is to connect our partner agencies with these new resources and seed initiatives that keep important meals on the table of hungry and vulnerable New Mexicans.”
Last year, Roadrunner Food Bank rescued more than 22.7 million pounds of food distributed to partner agencies all across the state and its own hunger programs.
Noon Day Ministries is a partner agency of Roadrunner Food Bank. Danny Whatley director at Noon Day Ministries coordinates the delivery of the prepared and rescued food with St. Martin’s and Joy Junction in conjunction with the Food Bank’s Food Rescue Manager. He said, “The savings this program has brought us in terms of food costs is roughly 35 percent. We can take those savings and put them into other services our clients also need. Plus, the food we are receiving through this new program is high quality. We thank the City, the Isotopes, Ovations and those who work with us at each of the public events to bring quality meals to those we serve. This partnership is truly a win-win for everyone.”
Ovations has been the food service provider of the Albuquerque Isotopes and Isotopes Park since 2003. General Manager Patrick Queeney heads Ovations’ efforts for Isotopes Park and was instrumental in the Isotopes involvement in the program.
The success of the program so far has encouraged those involved to look for additional opportunities. Mayor Berry is pleased to note that food from the upcoming Freedom Fourth event will also be available for donation.