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An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988
  Health
 

Drought conditions equal hunger and poor nutrition for New Mexicans

—Betsy Model

It’s pretty intuitive for most folk who shop for groceries; when drought hits a region of the United States where a lot of produce is grown, prices will—just a few months later—go up in the produce sections of grocery stores and, eventually, in restaurants.

What’s easy to forget is that drought creates trouble for all growers whether they’re growing produce, wheat, cotton, or cattle. If there isn’t enough water to provide either irrigation to the crops or water to the livestock or the grass they feed on, we all suffer the consequences.

In many respects, the past twelve months have been a perfect storm for not only the drought-stricken southwest but for almost every growing region in the U.S.

Here in New Mexico, the Office of the State Engineer announced in early July that 93.5 percent of the state was in “extreme or exceptional drought” conditions. For perspective: last year, even as New Mexicans were bemoaning slightly higher than usual temperatures and what we then considered awfully dry conditions, only 25.2 percent of the state was in the condition known as “extreme” drought. None of the state’s drought conditions were in the “exceptional” category.

In almost all directions, the farmers and cattlemen worry. On July 1, the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, the agency that allocates water to the four-county region of the state referred to as the Middle Rio Grande Valley (essentially, the state’s “bread basket” for much of the state’s orchard fruit and produce production) ended the irrigation season more than three months early saying, simply, they were out of water.

Grim realities aside, what does all this have to do with Sandoval County and hunger? It’s simple; reduced crops from across the nation, and in our own state, mean less produce and other food products being provided to food banks for distribution to our community.

Crop shortages mean higher prices in the grocery store, many consumers groan but ante up, especially when US grown produce is augmented in the store by produce from Mexico, Chile, and other parts of the world.

For food banks unable to secure donated produce, and unable to purchase produce outright at the increased prices, it means that they simply have none to offer their clients, many of whom already suffer from nutrition-related diseases.

Placitas’ Casa Rosa Food Bank is fairly fortunate; in the months of September, and throughout most of October, the food bank has for the last two years been able to secure fresh produce from the Corrales-based non-profit Seed2Need. In return, Casa Rosa board members, clients, and community volunteers work at the farm three days a week where, depending on season, they plant, weed, harvest and maintain the nearly two acres of productive farm area.

The rest of the year, Casa Rosa, like most of the state’s community food banks, purchases (at a significant discount) their food from Roadrunner Food Bank and, since produce has been difficult to obtain the last few months, has augmented what it offers clients by shopping like individual consumers do and typically paying average consumer prices.

Over the last few months, Casa Rosa has had to buy more than seventy percent of its produce through commercial sources. That availability of higher-nutrition food for the food bank’s clients means a healthier, more resilient community, but has taxed the food bank’s cash resources in a fairly significant manner.

Since at least once a week Casa Rosa fields a telephone call, email, or drop-by visitor who asks “how can I help?” this seemed like an opportune time to say that that assistance is really appreciated in these unusual times, and that help can be provided in a variety of ways.

Although the food items available through Roadrunner are obtained at a significant discount, Casa Rosa must still pay for the food ordered and distributed. Tax-deductible cash donations are always welcome, especially since the food bank can stretch even small donations to a very large degree by shopping commodity items and through Roadrunner Food Bank’s support.

Casa Rosa has, for many years, attempted to stretch its resources by following a “one-equals-nine” ratio; whenever possible the non-profit food bank attempts to secure nine dollars of food for every one dollar donated.

Donations of food are always welcome—including produce—provided it’s not beyond its expiration date and hasn’t been opened. And, lastly, Seed2Need can use additional volunteers who, during the late summer months, must harvest three times a week so that the produce can be distributed to more than eight food banks and related non-profits within Bernalillo and Sandoval Counties.

For more information, contact Casa Rosa Food Bank via email at info@casarosafoodbank.org, or through the website at www.casarosafoodbank.org. Messages may also be left between 9:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. at 867-5718. A Casa Rosa Board Member will return your call or email as quickly as possible.


HOMEscape Solutions class

HOMEscape Solutions, a six-week class, will be presented in Sandoval County this August through October by Master Gardeners Darlene Bassett, Denise Davis, and Cathryne Richards. This class is designed for both new Master Gardeners and homeowners who want more information about solving landscaping challenges. We want to provide the tools to make your HOMEscape possible.

The concept for the class was first discussed by these three Master Gardeners who wanted to provide more “nuts ‘n bolts” on how to develop properties here in Sandoval County. Darlene has taught the Landscaping Class for Southwest Homeowners Gardening Class, Gardening with the Masters and for past Training classes over the last 12 years.

The idea is to provide on-going support groups, feedback, and assistance in developing the HOMEscape plan of your dreams. Some of the issues covered in the class will be: site planning, hardscape selection, the use of native plants, garden harmony by using Feng Shui, and creating outdoor rooms.

The class will be held on Thursdays, starting August 29, and is a six-week commitment. It will be held at the County Extension Offices in Bernalillo from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m. The course fee is $60.00 dollars, which includes a complete materials kit. Sign up now for your spot at the Sandoval Extension Office—phone 867-2582—since attendance is limited to the first 24 people.

 
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