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ECHO works to meet increased demand for food, emergency services like utility assistance

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a large increase in demand for assistance, including food and financial help, Economic Council Helping Others Inc. CEO Nanette Pinckney said.

Pinckney said the food programs that ECHO administers have seen a 26% increase in demand. Last year, from March to August, ECHO provided 1,177,000 pounds of food to the community. This year for that time period, the nonprofit has distributed 1,786,000 pounds of food. 

"So it's a huge jump from the previous year," she said. "Food is definitely a high need not just here in the Farmington, Bloomfield, Aztec area, but also on the reservation where we have had the opportunity to create some new partnerships and provide food to them on a monthly basis."

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She said emergency services have also had increased demand. The nonprofit is best known for its food bank, but also provides assistance for people struggling to pay their utility, mortgage and rent payments as well as funeral expenses.

The demand for emergency services has increased 300% this year, Pinckney said.

"When we might have provided $8,000 in assistance per month, this year we're at over $50,000 a month in assistance," she said. 

Funding through the CARES Act has helped ECHO provide that additional assistance to community members.

Matthew Wright, a Boy Scout with the Crow Chapter of the Order of the Arrow, packages food on July 15 at ECHO Food bank in Farmington.

How to help

Right now, ECHO could use monetary donations to help support programs like the food bank and the pre-school. It is also seeking food donations and hygiene products that it can give out to community members in need. At this time of year, the nonprofit is seeking holiday-related food items such as gravy mixtures and stuffing in addition to the non-perishable food items it always needs like pasta and canned veggies.

Additionally, the local municipalities and San Juan County are collecting food donations for ECHO as part of an annual competition. The local governments will deliver the donations to the food bank and weigh the donations on Nov. 19.

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People can also help by stopping by Albertson's from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 21 in Farmington and donating cash or food during the annual Stuff the Bus campaign.

Pinckney said organizations wanting to help the nonprofit and can call the ECHO Inc. office at 505-325-7466 to arrange fundraisers or other ways to help out. Volunteers are usually needed at the food bank and more information can be found at echoinc.org or by calling 505-326-3770.

Jeffery Downing, co-adviser for the Crow Chapter of the Order of the Arrow, helps package food on July 15 at ECHO Food Bank in Farmington.

Free food box on Friday at food bank

ECHO will have several food box giveaways this month through a U.S. Department of Agriculture Farmers to Families program that was set up to help with the COVID-19 pandemic. These boxes include meat, dairy and produce and there are no requirements to receive them.

Pickering said they hope to distribute 900 boxes on Nov. 13 at the food bank. Normally the food bank on Commercial Avenue in Farmington is closed on Fridays, but the nonprofit has decided to use that day to distribute the food boxes. The distribution will be from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Upcoming ECHO food box distributions:

Food boxes sit ready for customers at the ECHO Food Bank in Farmington.
  • Free food box distribution from 4 to 6 p.m. Nov. 13 at Blanco Elementary School
  • Holiday boxes that include turkey and the fixings will be available starting at 9 a.m. Nov. 16 at the Sheep Springs and Sanostee chapters. The boxes are available thanks to a grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield and the Albuquerque United Way.
  • Holiday boxes will be available starting at 9 a.m. Nov. 17 at Bethel Church in Shiprock
  • Holiday boxes will be available on Nov. 19 at the Nageezi Chapter thanks to EOG Resources and its employee donations and company program
  • Free food boxes will be distributed starting at 4 p.m. Nov. 20 at the Bloomfield Fire Department.

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Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

An earlier version of this story misstated the CEO's last name.