Food distro project provides meals, work experience

Santa Fe Community College culinary arts program lead and Chef Jerry Dakan (center) with Geronimo restaurant executive chef and part owner Sllin Cruz (right) and SFCC culinary arts alumnus Nathan Clements (left) volunteer in preparing packaged meals for the World Central Kitchen food distribution project. (Photo: Chris Corrie)

To address food insecurity during the coronavirus crisis, New Mexico’s Santa Fe Community College (SFCC) has launched a food distribution initiative in partnership with World Central Kitchen, which is led by chef and humanitarian José Andrés. 

The SFCC Foundation is supporting the program, which will help feed Santa Fe Public School and SFCC students and their families, as well as local communities faced with the health and economic impacts of COVID-19. Working with city and county governments, the project will identify additional distribution sites where there is pressing economic need. 

“It’s one of many ways that our college has responded to student needs during this challenging time of COVID-19,” said SFCC President Becky Rowley.

SFCC culinary arts program Chef Jerry Dakan is coordinating the meal preparation, assisted by culinary arts faculty who will guide students through the daily production. Students who had not been able to complete the hands-on components of their classes will earn credit hours toward their culinary arts certificates and associate degrees, as well as gain unique experience in disaster relief food preparation.

Local guest chefs also will participate.

Fighting hunger

The partnership was developed by Robert Egger, who is serving  as a food security advisor to Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber. Egger has a long career leading charitable meal  programs, having launched the DC Central Kitchen and the LA Kitchen,  which have produced more than 50 million meals during their  tenure. He is a longtime friend and colleague of Andrés, as well as a founding board member of World Central Kitchen. 

“Our goal is to produce and distribute thousands of healthy meals on a daily basis,  with a hefty  dose of traditional New Mexico ingredients,” said Egger, who noted that this is the first World Central Kitchen program located in the Southwest and the first to be operated on a community college campus. “We want to make sure we reach folks in the most rural or challenged communities, where the economic ripples of COVID-19 have been most devastating.” 

The team anticipates preparing and distributing between 2,000 to 3,000 meals a day. The packaged meals will be made to serve either two or four people. Santa Fe Public Schools bus drivers will pick up the meals to be distributed to families. SFCC will serve its students through an organized drive-up at the college on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Internal experiences

SFCC is tapping expertise and experience among its team for the program. Camilla Bustamante, dean of trades, advanced technologies and sustainability, has served as an environmental health emergency relief responder and is a former manager with the Bureau of Health Emergency Management. She is coordinating the efforts with guidance and structure from National Incident Management and Incident Command Systems, in alignment with SFCC’s Community Emergency Response Team.  

Jenny Landen, the college’s dean of sciences, health, engineering and math, will oversee the COVID-19 screening procedures for volunteers. SFCC employees and nursing students will take temperatures and screen participants. 

About the Author

Emily Drabanski
is a staff writer with Santa Fe Community College in New Mexico.
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