In 2017, food banks in Monterrey and Torreon received grants from The Global FoodBanking Network (GFN), made possible by the Caterpillar Foundation, to serve hungry people in Mexico.
One in every four Mexicans are living in a situation where they have difficulty accessing food, and 1.5 million children in the country suffer from malnutrition. As part of Bancos de Alimentos de Mexico (BAMX), the national food banking association in Mexico, the food banks in Torreon and Monterrey work to combat these issues by serving low-income communities in the northern Mexican states of Coahuila and Nuevo Leon.
The grants helped the food banks in Monterrey and Torreon distribute an additional two million pounds of food to more than 70,000 people in 2017.
Making nutritious food more accessible in Monterrey
With the grant, Banco de Alimentos Cáritas de Monterrey (Monterrey Food Bank) purchased equipment to update its warehouse to improve the process for sorting and packaging fresh fruit and vegetables.
For seven-year-old Judith, this was life changing. In January 2017, Judith was diagnosed with malnutrition. However, by December 2017, thanks to the nutritious package food program run by the Monterrey Food Bank, Judith gained more than 10 pounds and grew over 5.5 inches. Judith now has a proper weight and nutritious status for a child her age.
Every two weeks, Judith’s family of five receives a package of food, supplied by the food bank, containing items such as milk and fresh produce, that the family would otherwise not be able to afford.
The Monterrey Food Bank serves families like Judith’s who are unable to purchase enough food and necessities to meet their daily needs. By providing healthy and diversified food to families, food banks in Mexico hope to alleviate the families’ economic burden and allow them to focus their resources on other needs such as schooling for children, healthcare, and basic living costs.
Equipment purchased through the grant in Monterrey included items such as aluminum tables, a conveyor belt, plastic baskets, and a pallet jack with a built-in scale. This equipment helped the food bank become more efficient and effective by improving the process of receiving, sorting, packing, and distributing fresh produce.
Before having this equipment, much of the fresh produce collected by the Monterrey Food Bank was sorted at the Central Market and distributed to beneficiaries directly from the market. Employees at the Monterrey Food Bank discovered that by bringing the fresh fruits and vegetables into their warehouse, they could ensure better sorting and packing processes and thus distribute higher quality produce to the beneficiaries. These fresh and nutritious foods were distributed to the families who needed it most through the nutritious package program.
The food bank carefully monitored the nutritional status of the children in families receiving the nutritious food packages and by the end of 2017, the prevalence of children under 12 years old with a proper weight-for-age score increased from 83 percent to 87 percent.
Refrigerated trucks impacting the way food is delivered in Torreon
The Banco de Alimentos Cáritas de Torreon (Torreon Food Bank) purchased a refrigerated truck with the grant it received from GFN. This purchase allowed the food bank to provide more than 350,000 pounds of food to over 19,000 people in need in 2017.
To grow and properly attend to the needs of their communities, food banks around the world actively seek to provide balanced and diversified selections of food. Refrigerated trucks offer a unique opportunity.
Refrigerated trucks allow for the distribution of nutritious yet perishable foods, such as fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and proteins, to communities in remote regions.
“With the addition of the refrigerated truck, we have been able to collect more food, and we are more efficient when collecting perishable food,” said Pita Campa, director, Banco de Alimentos Caritas de Torreon. “We even increased our beneficiaries this year by 10 percent.”
Food banks typically distribute food through social service agencies that directly serve the population in need; however, in rural areas of Mexico, there are often no social service agencies present in many of the communities.
The Torreon Food Bank works alongside many communities to distribute the food to those in need. Before receiving support from the food bank, the community establishes a committee that helps to organize families into volunteer groups. When the food bank truck arrives with the products, families help to unload the truck, sort the products, and distribute items among the recipient families.Moving forward
Through the support of GFN, Torreon Food Bank developed closer relationships with food and logistics companies, increasing its capacity and the amount of food it distributes annually.
By paying in full upfront for the vehicle and refrigeration equipment, the food bank garnered further support. The food bank staff negotiated discounts from the suppliers and donations for the labor to adapt the truck to the food bank’s specific needs. Additionally, with the excess money from purchasing the truck under budget, funds were used for other program expenses including fuel, maintenance and staff salaries.
The food bank in Monterrey will partner with two local universities to expand the products that can be distributed in its nutritious packages. To take advantage of the increased amount of produce that moves through the food bank and ensure that none goes to waste, the next stage of the project will involve building a processing plant that will allow the food bank to transform some of the fruit and vegetables into shelf-stable products. University students are working with the food bank to conduct a study on the different types of products that could be made, how much of each product could be produced and budgeted projections for the processing plant.
Processing and packaging their own fresh foods into canned or shelf-stable products at the food bank would result in saving more food from being wasted, ultimately reaching the people who need it most.