The pandemic and its associated restrictions might be winding down these days, but many of the same issues that predated it are still present in New Mexico, hunger being chief among those.
So once again, Bell’s Brewery and Premier Distributing are working with local food pantries — The Storehouse in Albuquerque, The Food Depot in Santa Fe, Casa de Peregrinos in Las Cruces — for the Feeding our Backyard program. For every case of Bell’s beer sold, $2 will be donated, which will provide up to 10 meals.
The program began Thursday and runs through July 5. To learn a little more, I once again caught up with Bell’s area sales manager Silas Sims and The Storehouse’s Jill Beets over Zoom.
“This campaign is going to go through Memorial Day through the Fourth of July,” Beets said. “The public is going to be asked to join. We have events at Albertsons Market, Jubilation, and at O’Neill’s, a patio party. This is all about feeding people in New Mexico. Hunger continues to be an issue.
“Bell’s has been super helpful. They asked us about doing one again. That was a crowded time. The need is still strong in New Mexico. Previous to the pandemic, one in four, now it’s one in three children. It’s gotten worse. A lot of people are out of work.”
Beets said The Storehouse feeds about 45,000 people per year, ranging from infants to senior citizens.
“I think like everyone else, New Mexico tends to lag,” she said. “We tend to have a longer economic impact than other states. It appears that way from past recessions. It’s going to take a while for people to get back on their feet 100 percent. We’re all for opening, don’t get us wrong. We’ve been working hard to get everybody vaccinated. That’s our path forward economically. It’s going to take a while for the economy to improve. Again, hunger was an issue before the pandemic. We were number two in the nation before the pandemic.”
Beets told a story of how her daughter has a co-worker whose family relied upon the The Storehouse when she was a child.
“They just weren’t eating for days at a time,” Beets said. “That was a story where she knows this woman. She’s doing well now, but that was her life when she was a child. You never think it’s someone you know.”
For Bell’s, relaunching the program was an easy decision.
“The difference (this time) is that we’re really trying to drive more call to action, trying to get the community to donate more than last time,” Sims said. “Last time was during the pandemic, right when (the state was) shutting down. I think people weren’t as willing to give at that time. This time on the posters it’s going to read $2 per case of beer sold goes to the charities. and then also, we will match customer donations. It is up to a certain capped amount for each charity.”
There will be posters at all participating locations, with QR codes that people can use to make direct donations. Or, should you not be at the store, you can go to The Storehouse website and click on the Feeding Our Backyard link.
“This year they did add a thing if you’re one of the first people to give over $35, you’re going to get a T-shirt that says, ‘Drink beer. Feed people,’ as an additional incentive,” Beets said.
After 64 businesses participated last time around, there are 80-plus and counting this time. Among those in the Albuquerque area are Jubilation, all Kelly’s Liquors locations, both Total Wines, Stoneface, Sister, Horse and Angel, Billy’s Longbar, Bird of Paradise, Talin Market, and of course all Albertsons Market stores. There will be special events at the Total Wine in Uptown on June 11 from 5 to 6 p.m., and at Total Wine Cottonwood on June 18 from 5 to 6 p.m.
“They can either buy the beer in that timeframe, and Bell’s is going to give us a portion of the proceeds, or you can donate directly,” Beets said.
Sims noted that many of Bell’s popular summer seasonals are beginning to arrive on local shelves, including Lemon-Lime Flamingo Fruit Flight, Oberon five-liter mini-kegs, and even Tropical Oberon.
“For the fourth year in a row, Bell’s was voted the number one brewery in the country by Zymurgy Magazine,” Sims said. “Bell’s is a strong supporter of the communities we serve in and work in.”
All of this comes at time when many brewery and bar employees are still out of work, or faced with reduced hours. Sims pointed out that The Storehouse does not discriminate when it comes to providing food to anyone in the Albuquerque area.
“It doesn’t matter what economic level you’re at, they can drive really nice cars and (still) lose their jobs,” he said. “The Storehouse doesn’t need to know your income. That was a way we could help out the bartenders, the servers, and the bar owners that were struggling was having an option for them to get food when they weren’t getting the tips, weren’t getting the money. You can’t just hand money to accounts.”
Beets said they were happy to pay back those who have helped them previously.
“Lots of the restaurants and breweries have supported us in the past,” she said. “It was a real turn of events where we called them. That meant the world to them. There was a place that would be respectful to folks and provide them with everything from meats to fruits and vegetables. It’s all free, so they get a huge cart and load up.”
The Storehouse is open every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon at 106 Broadway, just south of Central.
All of us in the Crew applaud Bell’s and Premier for helping people in New Mexico. A big thanks to Silas and Jill for the interview.