This year, Barker Realty has been named the official Christmas client meal corporate sponsor for a non-profit I’ve personally supported for many years—Kitchen Angels. In this piece, we celebrate their work along with that of another one of my favorite Santa Fe-based organizations, Food Depot.
When you live in a foodie’s paradise like Santa Fe with its gourmet shops and new restaurants popping up faster than you can say ‘land of enchantment,’ it’s sobering to learn that there are so many in our own community living with daily food insecurity.
And it’s not just a local issue. The New York Times recently noted that the annual food index rose 11.2 percent in the past year. Since hunger never takes a break during the holidays, it’s important to remember our neighbors in need and, maybe this year mix some philanthropy into our revelry.
As a town whose history was built around the oldest mission in the United States, we Santa Feans are wired to help those in need. One of our most active institutions is The Food Depot, which distributes a whopping 10.6 million pounds of food each year around nine counties in Northern New Mexico.
8.9 Million Meals and Counting!
“We’re a food bank and we also partner with about 80 partner agencies to help distribute food,” says Food Depot Volunteer Program Manager Steven Bolin. “Together, we help about 35,000 people annually, serving about 8.9 million meals.”
The Food Depot has been serving the community since 1993. What started as a fledgling organization working at the Old National Guard Armory is now a full-time operation with over 50 paid staff. But it’s the volunteers who are the organization’s true lifeblood.
“I think we average about 2,000 volunteer hours per month,” Steven told me. Those hours are executed by approximately 450 consistently active volunteers.
“Volunteers handle a wide array of tasks, including volunteering on The Food Depot’s Food Mobile,” he says. “Here, on-site, they work repacking food, sorting through donations from individuals, grocery stores, Walmart, and Target. We also have volunteers repacking diapers.”
For those looking to help during the holidays, Bolin offers several options. Food Donations are welcome, but monetary donations are even better. “Monetary donations go further because we can buy in bulk and really stretch the dollars,” Steven says.
And although people are usually in a generous spirit around Christmastime, the Food Depot’s Volunteer Program Manager notes that the greatest need for new volunteer staff is during the year when their regular volunteers go on vacation. In fact, volunteers are most needed early in the year. “Food insecurity doesn’t end with the holidays,” he stresses.
SUB – 30 Years of Providing Meals for All Those in Need
Located near The Food Bank on Siler Road is Kitchen Angels–an organization whose mission is dedicated to preparing and delivering “free, nutritious meals to Northern New Mexicans who are homebound and facing life-challenging illnesses and conditions.” If that mission sounds like meals on wheels, it’s not coincidental.
“Kitchen Angels started to serve people living with AIDS in 1992. Then the founders realized there was a greater need and a larger population in Santa Fe. People over 65 were covered by Meals on Wheels, but there were people under 60 who didn’t qualify for anything,” said Kitchen Angels Development Officer Dwayne Trujillo. “Monday through Friday we deliver fresh meals to clients in the greater Santa Fe area and Thursday’s we also include frozen meals for the weekend.”
2022 marks a milestone year for Kitchen Angels as they celebrate three decades of serving the community. “In our 30-year history we have prepared and delivered over 1.7 million meals to 7,693 clients by 4,000 volunteers,” Dwayne notes, pointing out that he is one of only five paid full-time staff. “Not a lot of nonprofits can manage this well on a shoestring staff,” he emphasizes.
“We’re a volunteer-driven organization,” Dwayne notes. “We are thankful to our volunteers who do pretty much everything. Prep and cook in the kitchen. Prepare client meal bags for the delivery drivers which we call delivery prep volunteers. And then of course our delivery drivers that deliver the client meals.”
All of this philanthropy comes at a cost so Kitchen Angels took advantage of this milestone to do some fundraising.
“For our 30th anniversary we did a number of special events, including a benefit concert featuring Emmylou Harris at The Santa Fe Opera,” Dwayne says.
Turning Table Settings into Cash
Another stream of income for Kitchen Angels comes from their popular kitchen-focused gently used store, Kitchenality, which began six years ago when people began donating kitchenware items. “We get amazing things. It’s because people downsize, they move away or they’re getting older and don’t entertain like they used to. That’s how we get all of these outstanding, really special things.” Dwayne says.
And with popular brands donated like Le Cruset, Baccarat Crystal, and Deruta Dinnerware, items don’t stay on the shelves long. “Merchandise changes regularly,” he says. “If you come one week and come back a week later, you’ll find a lot of new items on the shelves.”
Dwayne notes that income from Kitchenality now makes up 23 percent of Kitchen Angels’ operating budget and its success is largely due to its dedicated staff of Kitchenality volunteers.
Kitchenality alone has 30 volunteers, including the cashier, host, merchandising, and volunteers who wash, shine, and prepare the items. Kitchenality is open Monday through Saturday from 10-2.
“Everybody wants to volunteer during the holidays, but the greatest need is after January 1st,” Dwayne says.
For more information on Kitchen Angels, donations, volunteer opportunities and Kitchenality, visit their website – https://kitchenangels.org.