Neighbor to Neighbor Volunteers

Northern NM Food Depot volunteers sort through donated goods at the Depot’s Santa Fe warehouse Oct. 15

Neighbor to Neighbor Founder Linda Flatt and her team raised enough money this year to purchase more than a million pounds of food for the Food Depot of Northern New Mexico.

Neighbor to Neighbor is the largest annual fundraiser to benefit Northern New Mexico’s Food Depot.

Flatt and her team raised a total of $201,429, far surpassing their goal of $185,000. Española residents chipped in $410—their first time to contribute.

“My group of six ladies did an amazing job this year,” she said. “I could not have done it without them. Although the COVID presented challenges, things went smoothly.”

Each year, Flatt campaigns through local media outlets, social media and on their website, n2n.org, which is located on the Food Depot’s website. To do her part during the pandemic and avoid cross-contamination, Flatt has asked the public to only donate money, instead of food, for the last two years. 

“Having been a teacher for over 18 years, I watched as inner city kids back in the 60’s struggled with school because of their lack of nutritious food and stability in their lives,” she said. “I think that’s where it all began for me. 

While Flatt isn’t technically an employee for the Food Depot, she’s certainly played a huge role in its growth over the years. 

Northern New Mexico Food Depot Events and Outreach Coordinator Tim Fowler said the organization has expanded exponentially since it started 10 years ago, which is now allowing them to serve people in new ways. For years, the Food Depot only served as a food bank, meaning it gathered and stored the food for different food pantries. 

Now, the Depot is able to deliver food directly to the public in their new Food Mobile (formerly a Bookmobile), which they recently acquired and painted bright blue. 

So far, deliveries in the Food Mobile have gone well, Fowler said. Once the bus is parked at its destination, people get a menu and they pick which fresh produce they want to take home, as well as a freshly-made meal, which is whipped up in the kitchen on the bus. 

“People have the dignity of choice,” he said. “Also, the meals are great because they don’t have to wait until they get home to cook something. They can eat it right there.”

While giving a tour of the Depot’s warehouse in Santa Fe, he explained that they have different types of volunteers. Some people come with a group to help out for that day. But they also have a number of loyal volunteers who stop by on a regular basis to help out. Volunteers are put into groups and sent off to different rooms to sort through and package food.

For the 2020-2021 Fiscal Year, the Depot raised enough money to buy almost 13 million pounds of food (including pet food), which breaks down to more than 10 million meals. 

“It is truly an amazing accomplishment,” Flatt said. “Every person or business who donated, no matter what size of contribution, should be very proud to know how this helps.”

To donate money, visit thefooddepot.org or contact Mona Ruark at 505-471-1633, ext. 112, or  mruarke@thefooddeport.org. To volunteer, visit volunteer.thefooddepot.org for more information and an application. The Food Depot still takes non-perishable food items, like diapers and paper bags. Donations are accepted at the warehouse, located at 1222 A Siler Rd., from 1:30 to 4 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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