Food pantry

Volunteers at the Belen Area Food Pantry wait for families to pick up their meals for the month.

At a time when people are losing their jobs as businesses are forced to close or scale down services, the need for essentials, such as food, is at an all-time high.

Organizations, such as the Belen Area Food Pantry, have been helping people in need for years, and this time it’s no different. Joe Portio, president of Belen Area Food Pantry, said BAFP is here for those who need them the most.

The Belen Area Food Pantry is open from 10 a.m. to noon, every Tuesday and Thursday. While they normally allow clients to walk in to get their food items, Portio said the COVID-19 pandemic has changed things.

“We’ve changed some things due to the threat,” Portio said. “We’re lot letting anyone in the building, but we’ll greet them at the car, get their information and load up a box of groceries for them.”

Because of a limited amount of food on hand, the BAFP limits their food donations to 65 people each day.

“People start lining up early, but once we get to 65, we have to stop,” Portio said last Thursday. “Today, we had to stop at 11 a.m.”

Portio, who retired last year from the Belen Police Department, said he understands the hardships people are going through, and says as long as they have food, they’ll stay in business.

Anyone who lives within the Belen Consolidated Schools district is welcomed to the BAFP. The only requirement is to bring a piece of mail showing your address, and a photo ID. “We don’t ask questions. If you want to come in and sign up and drive through, we’re here for you,” Portio said.

Some of the food items that could be available at the BAFP include meat, such as chicken, frozen blueberries, cheese, spaghetti, flour, sugar, canned goods, cereal, milk, fruit and sometimes bread.

Portio said the BAFP is always in need of donations, including money and food. The Belen Area Food Pantry is at 129 S. Third St. in Belen, located behind the Belen Public Library in the old Belen Schools transportation center. For information, call 318-8234.

The First Baptist Church of Los Lunas has also adapted their methods of giving food to community members in need, said Youth Pastor Brandon Campanella.

“We’ve turned it into a drive-thru food bank just to avoid contact and keep with social distancing,” Campanella said. “We normally serve 15 people, we had 25 this past Thursday and we’re planning on 30 this coming Thursday.”

First Baptist is still taking donations from the public and they can be dropped off at the church. As most of their food comes from the Roadrunner Food Bank, their only restriction is that people receiving meals are from Los Lunas, Bosque Farms or Peralta and must provide two proofs of residency for the first visit. The food bank is open on Thursdays beginning at 2:30 p.m.

First Baptist Church of Los Lunas is located at 914 Los Lentes Road in Los Lunas and can be reached at 865-7957.

Coleen Tracy is the co-chair of the Peralta Memorial United Methodist Church Food Pantry. She said the church’s food pantry will be open until the Roadrunner Food Bank says otherwise.

“Being a part of Roadrunner, that’s our mission — to feed the community,” Tracy said. “If you’re hungry, come on down.”

The food pantry operates out of the building furthest west of the church. People can drive up to the building and volunteers will come up to the car to deliver the meals.

Peralta Memorial United Methodist Church serves the public beginning at 10 a.m. on Mondays.

(Editor’s note: There are other food pantries in Valencia County. For information about if the one you use is in operation or changing its method, call them directly.)

Editor/Publisher

Clara Garcia is a native of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. She is the president of the New Mexico Newspaper Association, and is a member of the Pilot Club of Belen.

Staff Writer

Anna Padilla is a native of Los Lunas, and is a graduate of the University of New Mexico. She began her journalism career with the VCNB in May 2019. She covers the village of Los Lunas, Los Lunas Schools, SODA and the town of Peralta.

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