The COVID-19 pandemic has had a direct impact on vulnerable populations across the world. In Mexico, Bancos de Alimentos de México (BAMX), a network of 55 food banks throughout the country, has nearly doubled its distribution of food to people facing food insecurity and hunger. Here, we talk with Maria Teresa Garcia Plata, general director of BAMX, about the organization’s work in a time of health and economic crisis.
Q: Tell us about your organization and the community you serve.
Teresa: There is enough food in Mexico to feed everyone. However, every year more than 20.4 million tons of food are lost or wasted, while at the same time 25.5 million people live in food insecurity or hunger.
For more than 25 years, the Mexican Food Banking Network (BAMX) has been dedicated to rescuing all surplus food suitable for human consumption through the value chain – farms, supermarkets, supply centers, industry, hotels and restaurants – in order to distribute it to people facing insecurity and hunger, as well as improve nutrition in the country. Our network includes 55 food banks in 27 states. We distribute more than 120,000 tons of food to 1.4 million people in need every year.
We have more than 24,000 volunteers and work with more than 4,000 companies nationwide to serve people and families in almost 7,000 communities and agencies.
Q: How has the pandemic changed your daily operations?
Teresa: Our first step was to set up an operation protocol and adjust our recovery, handling and delivery processes. We used to assist people in a physical location, and we would provide other services as well. Some workshops would take place at the same time as food delivery. We had to make quick changes when the pandemic hit.
Because of unemployment and increasing poverty in our country, all of our food banks saw growth in the number of people both assisted and on waiting lists.
Our network grew from 1.4 million beneficiaries in January to 2.1 million in June. We also increased the volume of food rescued and acquired with cash donations from 10,000 tons per month to more than 15,000 tons.
If we consider that before COVID-19 there were 25.5 million people living in food insecurity or hunger, and six months later there are more than 50 million people living in these conditions and only 2.1 million are served by BAMX, then we know there is a big opportunity and a huge need to do much more.
Q: What is the greatest need right now, and how should people reach out if they want to help?
Teresa: We need food to serve more people; both rescued food and bought food. To improve our food rescue among the value chain, we need funds to properly move fresh produce and food from the industry. To increase the nutritional level of each food package we deliver, we buy staple food like beans, rice, lentils, and grains. With financial donations, we have been able to buy and distribute more than 3,000 tons of this type of food that is not donated.
We are, right now, living the worst health and economic crisis in modern age. This is the time, right now, to become active, to be part of the solution and help those in need. To promote our cause and inspire others, to become a volunteer and of course to donate are the main ways to be a changemaker and contribute to end hunger.