October 2021 marks a truly amazing milestone for Adelante Desert Harvest Food Rescue. Now in its 20th year, the program has rescued over 20 million pounds of food! “Rescued” food is excess prepared food from restaurants or the deli departments at grocery stores that would normally go to waste. It can also be canned foods, dry goods, or bakery items. Or, fresh foods like meats, dairy items, or fruits and vegetables. Instead of items going into the trash, volunteers pickup that food and take it to other nonprofit organizations that feed people in need.

Simple Idea Now Provides 1.2 Million Meals a Year

In October 2001, Adelante was looking for new ways for people with disabilities to volunteer. After all, a big part of Adelante is helping people with disabilities have valued roles. In addition, Adelante was hoping to help address a community need. When the discussions were underway, the concept of food rescue was introduced. The idea initially came from an Adelante staff member who had moved to Albuquerque from the east coast. Penny Goldstine, an administrative assistant at Adelante in 2001, had seen similar programs in New York City. In fact, food rescue was a growing trend in large cities. Nonprofits were gathering food from restaurants and donating it to nonprofits that were feeding people in need.

Once Penny told others about the idea, Adelante recognized that food rescue could be a great way to fight hunger in New Mexico. Not to mention provide volunteer opportunities for people with disabilities participating in Adelante’s day programs. Other advantages included making use of an existing food source, prepared surplus foods, that nobody else was accessing at the time. Best of all, Desert Harvest, as the program was named, would help fight hunger in New Mexico. Despite our rich agricultural history, hunger has been an ongoing issue in New Mexico.

From the start, the program was a success. In the first month, October 2001, Desert Harvest collected 1,500 pounds of food. That was 1,200 meals for people in need. Today, the food donations collected through Desert Harvest provide 1.2 million meals a year!

Penny Goldstine was an administrative assistant at Adelante when she suggested doing a food rescue program. Since then, over 20 million pounds of food has been distributed to New Mexicans in need.

Restaurants and grocery stores donate food that otherwise would have been wasted.

Local Restaurants & Grocers Have Been Generous Donors

Tomato Café was Desert Harvest’s very first donor. They began donating excess pastas, sauces, and soups almost from day one. Twenty years later, the Albuquerque restaurant is still one of the program’s biggest donors. Over the years, multiple restaurants and grocers have pitched in to help. The long list of donors now includes grocery stores, APS Food Services, and lots of restaurants. Currently, Desert Harvest’s biggest donor is Whole Foods Market at Wyoming and Academy. Over the years, they have donated an amazing 2,951,473 pounds of food. The store still donates today and is a big part of Desert Harvest’s success.

Adelante appreciates the food donors, volunteers, funders, and the community of nonprofits feeding those in need. Each plays a key role in Desert Harvest and makes it possible for the program to fight hunger at just 4 cents per meal.

You Can Help! Be Part of the Next Big Idea

Desert Harvest exists because one person recognized a way Adelante could help those in need. To encourage staff members at all levels of Adelante to explore and share ideas, and bring them to life. Adelante has created a fund to support this kind of out-of-the-box thinking. Named after Adelante’s former CEO, the Mike Kivitz Legacy Innovation Fund will support ideas for moving our community forward.

Staff members and clients alike who are part of Adelante can introduce ways to help the community and ask for grants from the innovation fund. The goal is to help the community and also develop the leadership skills of people who introduce the projects. After all, what better way to gain those skills than to actually create a budget, find people to help you, and execute what you planned? It is a great way to find and develop up and coming leaders in our nonprofit. It’s also going to be a great way to empower people with disabilities and help our community.

Your gift to the Mike Kivitz Legacy Innovation Fund can also go twice as far right now. Adelante is currently matching gifts up to $10,000. So, your gift of $20 today (maybe in honor of Desert Harvest’s anniversary?) can become $40. Even better, a gift of $1000 will become $2000! Thank you for supporting Adelante’s innovative vision and continued commitment to moving New Mexico forward. Give today! Mike Kivitz Legacy Innovation Fund