UNM Volunteers at Roadrunner Food Bank
UNM volunteers prepare to sort and package cereal at Roadrunner Food Bank. UNM packaged 13,500 bags of cereal or the equivalent of nine pallets during a volunteer event at the food bank. Photo credit: Mark Reynolds

In a time of giving, the University of New Mexico stepped up to the plate. Volunteers are instrumental to the services Roadrunner Food Bank provides. During the winter break, more than 100 UNM volunteers descended upon Roadrunner Food Bank over the course of a day to give back to the community.

The state’s largest food bank receives and transports more than 26 million pounds of food annually distributing this food through a statewide network of four smaller food banks, through direct service programs, and more than 600 emergency food pantries, group homes, low-income day care centers, shelters, and hot meal programs.

Through that network, RRFB helps nearly 40,000 different hungry people in New Mexico weekly.  That figure is equivalent to feeding a city the size of Farmington every single week. In addition to distributing food through partner agencies, Roadrunner Food Bank runs several direct service programs to help end hunger in New Mexico. With a state hunger rate hovering around 1 in 3 people (the national hunger rate is 1 in 6 people), the services RRFB provides are critical to making an impact on hunger in New Mexico.

With the help of a lot of volunteers.

Roadrunner Food Bank volunteers help with sorting food and produce, repacking bulk foods, packing food boxes, light custodial duties, office support, order-pulling and recycling. According to Mark Reynolds, who coordinated the event for UNM, the volunteers worked three shifts from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and followed that up with a tour of the facility. During the course of the event, UNM volunteers helped pack nine pallets of cereal slated for schools in New Mexico as part of the “bag pack school program.”

“The Roadrunner staff broke us up into groups, some who worked on sorting through ‘Trix’ cereal donated by General Mills, some who worked on packing and another group that sorted produce,” Reynolds said. “We were able to provide nine pallets of packed cereal boxes, 50 boxes per pallet, 30 packages per box, 1,500 per pallet or a total of 13,500 bags of cereal boxes, sealed and ready for delivery.”

The produce group sorted through 100’s of pounds of produce to sift through what was good for one week, two weeks or three weeks and separated that which wasn’t usable.

“In addition to the national and state hunger rate, we learned many lessons that day,” Reynolds said. “One of the things we learned was that the Roadrunner Food Bank literally receives tons and tons of food products, donated by manufacturers, stores and everyday people like us. Another lesson was that the Roadrunner Food Bank survives from volunteers doing exactly what we did – labor to assist in boxing products that then go to distribution centers.”

As a member of the Staff Council, the idea for the “pay-it-forward” volunteer project came from Reynolds who decided to volunteer eight hours of his time one day during UNM’s winter break. He thought he could encourage other staff councilors to join him. After reading Reynold’s email, several councilors forwarded his request to their constituents and many, more than 100, enthusiastically answered the call.

“I thought we would get a few volunteers but UNM staff came to the call and we more than 100 – this just shows that we are a community that cares, a city within a city,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds worked the entire day and coordinated each shift, showing each new group what they could do to assist and relive the other groups.

“It worked like clockwork – everyone jumped in and helped in any way they could – everyone said the same thing – just let me know where I can help,” Reynolds said. “Afterward, Roadrunner’s Coordinator Paula Brumfield thanked UNM for assisting the food bank and a successful event.”

UNM’s Staff Council has a long history of dedication to community service.  Each year the Staff Council sponsors numerous events to benefit the community. In addition, Staff Council organizes many events for staff including our annual breakfast, picnic, and concerts.  Staff Council also has two awards for staff: the monthly PAWS award for exceptional service to the UNM community and the very prestigious annual Gerald May presidential award for outstanding staff.

“UNM employees serve as ambassadors of the University and the Staff Council promotes this idea by participating in community service projects,” said Kathy Meadows, administrative officer, UNM Staff Council. “We believe that service to the community not only promotes a feeling of goodwill and camaraderie among UNM staff but also reflects the true spirit of UNM as a viable, active partner in the community in which we live.”

If you’d like to join Staff Council on any community service events or for more information, contact scouncil@unm.edu.