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CASA DE PEREGRINOS

Casa de Peregrinos met COVID-19 challenge in 2020; expanding in 2021, 2022

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“The COVID epidemic has drastically exacerbated food insecurity, nationwide and in our own community,” Casa de Peregrinos (CdP) emergency food program of Doña Ana County said in its 2020 annual report.

Food insecurity rose from a five-year national average of 11-12 percent to 38 percent nationwide in March and April 2020, the report said. 54 million people could be food insecure because of the pandemic, including 18 million children, CdP said. That includes a four percent increase in New Mexico.

CdP has “significantly changed its operational models” to maintain the health and safety of its staff, volunteers and clients, the report said.

The pandemic caused the cancellation of major CdP fundraising events in 2020, and the CdP saw its Food Rescue Program drop to less than half the normal 35,000 pounds of food it collected each week, resulting in an ongoing expense of more than $6,000 per week to make up difference, the report said.

“By the year’s end, CdP had spent over $430,000 on food purchases, compared to just over $187,000 in 2019,” CdP said.

Here are some additional CdP statistics from 2020:

  • CdP distributed more than 4.7 million pounds of food, compared to 3.8 million pounds in 2019.
  • CdP served more than 35,000 individual clients, an increase of more than 5,000 (16 percent) as compared to the three previous years.
  • CdP saw an increase of almost 75 percent in families coming to its pantries in rural parts of the county.
  • CdP served more homeless clients in September 2020 than it did in all of 2019.
  • CdP distributed almost 3,000 more food baskets in 2020 than it did in 2019.

“Even in the midst of the pandemic, CdP remained committed to providing heathy, nutritious food to families experiencing a financial crisis,” CdP Executive Director Lorenzo Alba Jr. said. “Our doors remained open to all those in need,” Alba said, noting that no one was turned away in 2020 or placed on a waiting list to receive food.

For example, CdP partnered with other local organizations to distribute more than 3,800 holiday baskets at Thanksgiving. That compared to 3,672 baskets in 2019 and 1,300 in 2016, the report said.

Also in 2020, the number of participants in CdP’s Hunger Strike fundraiser quadrupled from 2019, raising $30,665, an increase of more than $6,000 over the previous year.

CdP increased its services in Sunland Park, where it serves an area with a 46.2 percent poverty rate, more than twice the rate for Doña Ana County as a whole. With a grant from Con Alma Health Foundation and a partnership with the Southern New Mexico Project, CdP distributed 200 food baskets a month throughout 2020, using a site provided by the City of Sunland Park.

Also in 2020, the City of Las Cruces purchased the former Horse N Hound building in front of the Mesilla Valley Community of Hope campus that includes CdP, to serve as CdP’s warehouse, pantry and food distribution center. CdP’s current 4,000-square-foot facility was designed in 2003 to distribute 500,000 pounds of food annually.

With its food distribution now approaching 10 times that amount, the new facility will allow CdP to increase the amount of food it stores and distributes, Alba said, and will add a teaching kitchen. A ribbon cutting is planned for June 2022, Alba said. CdP has committed $200,000 from its 2021 budget to begin a capital campaign, “Hope for Tomorrow,” to inprove the new facility.

In 2020, volunteers recorded 9,016 hours at CdP pantries and through board and community service, the report said, which is the equivalent of 4.3 full-time employees with a value of more than $175,000.

“We’ve come so far from our roots at a kitchen table in La Mesa, and from my first week as director (June 2011) when we served 38 families and ran out of food on Friday,” Alba said.

CdP office hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday and by appointment Tuesday and Thursday.

Contact CdP at 575-523-5542 and cdplascruces@gmail.com. Visit www.casadeperegrinos.org.