Our New Adventure Begins

We at American West Jewelry are excited to unveil our new brand! For several months we have been hard at work exploring who we are and what makes us unique. We have embraced our origins, dusted off our roots and reimagined the future to bring to life our new American West identity.

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New Mexico proudly—and rightfully—claims the oldest recorded history in what are now the United States. Indigenous peoples flourished here for centuries before the arrival of Spanish explorers and, much later, Anglo settlers. All have contributed from their cultures—women and men equally—to create the hearty blend New Mexico now offers. But it is the courageous women that American West Jewelry honors through our collections.

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The unique traditions and stunning landscapes of New Mexico have long attracted women of an adventuresome heart. Some are well known—Mabel Dodge Lujan, Georgia O’keeffe, Agnes Martin—while most remain unsung heroines. But all were possessed of a pioneering nature that drew them to the blue skies and sweeping vistas of the high desert. It is this spirit of quest and adventure that informs and inspires the artisans of American West Jewelry.

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We celebrate that glorious gift of individuality in every piece of jewelry we hand craft. Drawing on the diversity of our multi-cultural heritage we design and create artifacts that reflect our close connection to Mother Earth and the Southwest. And that respect and honor the spark of the free-spirited, emboldened women who wear them. We make them as art—long a way of life here.

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American West Jewelry is on a journey of our own. A mission to create heirloom pieces that empower women, bonding them across all cultures and down through all generations—grandmother to mother to daughter. Jewelry that will live on in families and create a lore of its own. Jewelry that will be made in New Mexico by a growing studio of new artisans we are training to continue the ancient tradition of our ancestors. Legendary keepsakes from the Land of Enchantment.

Hold onto your hats and dig in your heels, the adventure begins with #AWYou!

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#AWYou & Yours

Happy Holidays!
This year we asked some of our team here at American West what their favorite New Mexico holiday tradition is. The answers were as varied and colorful as a Christmas tree!
We all celebrate this time of year a bit differently, and that is what makes it such a rich, cultural experience, no matter where you live or how you celebrate the season of joy, loved, and sharing.
Since we pride ourselves on our unique take to every single holiday — cue the red chile please — we thought we’d share our list of the top ways to celebrate Christmas in New Mexico.
Chicos and red chile, followed by biscochitos! Chicos is a dried corn soup that we eat on Christmas. We bake the whole cob in the horno and hang it to dry. 
– Jody Naranjo, Pueblo artist & American West guest designer
Baking and decorating biscochitos with the women in the family.
– Lisa Benavidez, American West customer service representative
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Taking my 94 year-old grandpa to Christmas Mass in the little adobe church at the heart of our village.
– Ungelbah Davila, American West photographer
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Going to see the Christmas lights and searching for the best luminarias.
– Alex Montoya, American West Key Account Executive
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Putting up luminarias with my family. Luminarias are just paper bags with candles inside that you line walkways and other surfaces with. They are simple, and seemingly dangerous, yet a Christmas icon in New Mexico.
– Larry Shivers, American West model

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Getting all my nephews to come over and make ornaments for their aunties, uncles, parents and grandparents. We teach that it’s not about the cost of a gift, but the thought, heart and time spent making something personalized for those you love.
– Monique Candelaria, American West model
A ritual re-enactment of Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem in their search for a place to stay. It takes place the 9 days leading up to Christmas. The tradition takes place at different people’s houses within the community, which we join for prayer, singing and food.
– Louisa Escovedo, merchandising sales planner
Traveling to Santa Fe to participate in the Christmas Eve farolito walk on Canyon Road. We enjoy hugging our children and running from bonfire to bonfire to keep warm, while singing songs and drinking hot apple cider.
– Lily Nguyen, American West graphic designer

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Ungelbah Davila is American West Jewelry’s blogger, lifestyle photographer and social media contributor. She is Navajo of the ‘Áshįįhi Clan, as well as a native New Mexican of Spanish, Irish, and Sephardic ancestry. Her name, which in English means a woman who has been to war and lived to fight again, was passed to her from her maternal great-grandmother and is a source of personal power that influences the unique narrative she brings to her many art forms.

Deb Ebeling is #AWYou

Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, Deborah Edgren-Ebeling is the face behind our shop at the stunning Gaylord Texan in Grapevine, TX. The Carolyn Pollack Gallery, which also houses a huge selection of American West Jewelry, is located inside the Texan and just a quick 5 minute hop from DFW airport.

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Deborah tells us that more than a few American West Jewelry collectors even plan long layovers on their way through Dallas just so they’ll be able to slip over to the gallery and pick out a new treasure or two.

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“We’re always here,” says Deborah. “We’re always willing to share stories and our special stock. We just dig through jewelry and play in jewelry all day! It’s truly a delight.”

During her time at the gallery, Deborah has done more than just share jewelry with women. She’s forged lifelong friendships and become a part of what has developed into a powerful sisterhood of women across the country that come together over a common love of jewelry.

 


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Ungelbah Davila is American West Jewelry’s blogger, lifestyle photographer and social media contributor. She is Navajo of the ‘Áshįįhi Clan, as well as a native New Mexican of Spanish, Irish, and Sephardic ancestry. Her name, which in English means a woman who has been to war and lived to fight again, was passed to her from her maternal great-grandmother and is a source of personal power that influences the unique narrative she brings to her many art forms.

New Mex-Giving

Here in New Mexico, we love Thanksgiving as much as anyone! But we tend to do a few things differently. Where most of the country is dishing up brown or white gravy, we roll out the red.  And for dessert, expect to find a green chile apple pie and some pumpkin empanadas!

Here are a few of our favorite, time-tested New Mex-giving delicacies to add a little spice to your menu this year.

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Red Chile Gravy

Ingredients
3 tbsp Olive Oil or Shortening
1/2 cup Chile Powder
2 tbsp flour
2 cups Water
1 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Pepper
1/4 tsp Cumin
1/2 tsp Garlic Salt

Instructions

  1. In a medium saucepan or skillet, melt shortening or warm the olive oil over low to medium heat.
  2. Whisk in the flour and cook until a light brown (approximately 4 minutes) making a roux as a base for the Red Chile Sauce.
  3. Once the roux has turned a golden brown, over medium heat, whisk in the Red Chile Powder.
  4. When the roux and chile powder have been blended completely, add water and cook to desired consistency. Add in salt, pepper, cumin, garlic salt, whisk, and serve.

 

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Pumpkin Empanadas

Ingredients
3 cup all-purpose flour
1⁄3 cup white sugar
1 1⁄2 tsp salt
1⁄4 tsp baking powder
1 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup warm water
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree
2 egg
1 cup white sugar
1 tsp salt
1 1⁄2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1⁄2 tsp ground cloves
1 egg, beaten

Instructions

Prep 40 min Cook 20 min Ready 60 min

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, 1/3 cup sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and baking powder. Cut shortening into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in water about 2 tablespoons at a time, just until the dough comes together. Knead a few times in the bowl, then scrape out onto a floured surface. Cut dough in quarters and cut each quarter into thirds to make 12 equal portions. Roll each piece of dough into a ball. Cover with a cloth and allow to rest while preparing the filling.
  3. Mix pumpkin, 2 eggs, 1 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves together until smooth. On a floured surface, roll out each dough ball into a thin circle about 6 inches across. Spoon about 1/3 cup of filling into the center, fold dough over the filling to make a half-moon shape, and crimp the edges together with a fork. Carefully transfer empanadas to prepared baking sheets. Brush the top of each with beaten egg.
  4. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until crusts are shiny and golden brown.

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Ungelbah Davila is American West Jewelry’s blogger, lifestyle photographer and social media contributor. She is Navajo of the ‘Áshįįhi Clan, as well as a native New Mexican of Spanish, Irish, and Sephardic ancestry. Her name, which in English means a woman who has been to war and lived to fight again, was passed to her from her maternal great-grandmother and is a source of personal power that influences the unique narrative she brings to her many art forms.

AW Celebrates Native American Heritage Month

In honor of November being Native American heritage month, we would like to introduce you to some of the award-wining Native American artists and jewelers that have partnered with us to guest design stunning, one-of-a-kind pieces for American West Jewelry.

Jody Naranjo, Santa Clara Pueblo

Just this September, Jody was awarded the prestigious Governor’s Award for her excellence in the arts. She is celebrated for her contemporary pottery that often incorporates strong female motifs and whimsical animal designs. Two of her most recent pots were the inspiration behind some of our new jewelry pieces, shich you can see more of here: https://americanwestjewelry.com/?s=naranjo&post_type=product

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Kenneth Johnson , Muscogee/Seminole

Kenneth is an accomplished metalsmith recognized for his bold combinations of stampwork and engraving that often incorporate coins and bead set gemstones.  This year he took first place in the earring category at the Santa Fe Indian Market for a pair of 23KT gold coin earrings. Some of his designs for American West include these gorgeous sterling Gorget Drop Earrings:  https://americanwestjewelry.com/product/kenneth-johnson-sterling-silver-silver-gorget-drop-earrings/

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Fritz Casuse, Navajo

Fritz has become well known for his complex, handcrafted masterpieces that can best be described as wearable sculptures. This year he, too, took first place at the Santa Fe Indian Market in the ring category.  His fluid, three-dimensional style has found its way into his designs with us, as well, which you can see more of here: https://americanwestjewelry.com/?s=fritz&post_type=product

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Ungelbah Davila is American West Jewelry’s blogger, lifestyle photographer and social media contributor. She is Navajo of the ‘Áshįįhi Clan, as well as a native New Mexican of Spanish, Irish, and Sephardic ancestry. Her name, which in English means a woman who has been to war and lived to fight again, was passed to her from her maternal great-grandmother and is a source of personal power that influences the unique narrative she brings to her many art forms.

#AWYou Deb Haaland for Congress

This month we find ourselves inspired by a woman who is pushing New Mexico to the forefront of history. Shortly before 10 p.m. on June 5, Debra Haaland celebrated her first victory on her path to Washington in a campaign that is growing the way all sacred things grow, from the ground up. With standing room only in her Albuquerque campaign office Haaland, a Laguna Pueblo woman, took the Democratic nomination for the state’s 1st Congressional District, positioning her to be the country’s first Native American woman in Congress. Next up, the general election on November 6, 2018, where a victory would mean a landmark event for a country that less that 100 years ago didn’t allow Native Americans the right to vote.

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Deb, pictured above, wearing the Native American artist Jody Naranjo’s Critter Cuff

Today, Haaland headquarters still teems with excitement. As I arrive to meet Haaland I find her surrounded by a team of young people, all working with passionate millennial enthusiasm. The atmosphere is electric with a feeling of purpose, of community and pride, of selflessness and passion, all which carry over into my conversation with Haaland, who greets me with a welcoming, dimpled smile that reminds me of aunts and kitchens and lessons on how to walk in beauty.

“On election night I said, ‘this is a victory for women, a victory for working people, a victory for Indian country,’” says Haaland. “And that meant a lot to the Native folks that have worked with me on this campaign and who I’ve advocated with in making our issues front and center. ”

During a powerful TED Talk in 2016 Haaland, a child of a Pueblo and Norwegian-American military family and single mother to one daughter, asked a room full of women, “Who speaks for you?”  Throughout her campaign she has maintained a powerful message of advocacy for women. Today as we sit together, I am in awe of how gracefully Haaland stands on the cusp of being one of the most powerful voices in the country for women and people of color. Her power, I observe, is in her truth. It is her ability to relate that makes her a dangerous opponent.

“I’ve felt for a long time that we need people in office who have experienced ‘the struggle,’” says Haaland, whose platform includes fighting for medicare, 100% renewable energy, women’s equality, and a permanent solution for DREAMers. “I’m proud to know what it’s like to rely on food stamps, and wait at the Indian hospital to get healthcare, and things like that… I can’t speak for my tribe or anyone’s tribe but I have all of that history and perspective behind me, and that’s where my voice will come from.”

To know Haaland is to know where her voice began, amongst the cornfields and red earth mesas of Laguna Pueblo. It is there, she says, that she spent hours watching her grandmother work to prepare the food that her grandfather grew. It was there that she learned about hard work.

Emotion takes over as Haaland talks about her grandmother, who the U.S. government sent over 100 miles from home to boarding school when she was just 8 years old.

“She went through a lot of hardship; both my grandparents when through a lot of hardship preserving our culture and tradition for us because the world was changing and they recognized that. So at the same time they were protecting our traditions they were encouraging us to get an education and be a part of the change. That was their way of ensuring that we would have a future for our people,” says Haaland, also reflecting on her mother who worked for 25 years as a federal employee in Indian education.

Haaland says she also admires the work of  Kalyn Free (Choctaw) and Ada Deer (Menominee), who both ran for Congress during their careers and advocated for Indian issues, laying the groundwork for women like herself.

With an impressive career behind her and even bigger things to come, Haaland has already earned her spot on the list of inspiring female “sheros.” She says her advice for young women who have a dream that may seem impossible is to keep getting out there and to not take no for an answer.

For more information about Deb Haaland, visit: www.debforcongress.com


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Ungelbah Davila is American West Jewelry’s blogger, lifestyle photographer and social media contributor. She is Navajo of the ‘Áshįįhi Clan, as well as a native New Mexican of Spanish, Irish, and Sephardic ancestry. Her name, which in English means a woman who has been to war and lived to fight again, was passed to her from her maternal great-grandmother and is a source of personal power that influences the unique narrative she brings to her many art forms.

Happy Indigenous Peoples Day

Every year more cities across the country are replacing Columbus Day in favor of a new holiday – Indigenous Peoples Day. Here in Albuquerque, the change was made in 2015. New Mexico’s Indigenous population makes up 10.6%, with 22 distinct American Indian tribes calling this beautiful state home. Jewelry is a large part of Native culture, and we are blessed to be immersed daily in the inspiring designs of both traditional and contemporary Native jewelers, artists and artisans.

In observance of Indigenous People’s Day, we at American West Jewelry would like to say “thank you!” to all of our Indigenous friends and family for the immense contributions they have given not only the jewelry world, but all facets of American life, from farming to the creation of our Constitution. Did you know that the Founding Fathers were inspired by the Iroquois Confederacy’s form of democracy? Well now you do!

For me, Indigenous Peoples Day is a day of remembrance to the millions of men, women and children who were killed in the Americas, forgotten in the history books and in unmarked graves. It is a day to honor the warriors who lived and died fighting for their people and their homeland, and to give thanks to each and every mother and grandmother, father and grandfather who survived so that we would survive, who clung to life in impossible situations so that our people would continue. Indigenous Peoples Day reminds all of us of our sacred responsibility to protect this world that we inhabit and all life forms on it so that the seventh generation will have a home in which to walk in beauty.


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Ungelbah Davila is American West Jewelry’s blogger, lifestyle photographer and social media contributor. She is Navajo of the ‘Áshįįhi Clan, as well as a native New Mexican of Spanish, Irish, and Sephardic ancestry. Her name, which in English means a woman who has been to war and lived to fight again, was passed to her from her maternal great-grandmother and is a source of personal power that influences the unique narrative she brings to her many art forms.

The Art of Friendship

I remember the first time I met the famous, award winning Santa Clara Pueblo potter, Jody Naranjo. It was through our relationship with the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts that we ventured into our first collaboration. Being one of the most awarded and collected artist at the Santa Fe Indian Market, I was a bit nervous when she first visited my design studio. Within minutes, we felt like kindred spirits. Our first piece was a pendant that was presented to all the pueblo potters of SWAIA in 2012. Soon after, Bill and I acquired our first, treasured Jody Naranjo pottery set.  It is called “Outside the Box”, and truly represents Jody’s unique approach to pottery. Being an eighth generation potter, Jody continues to use primitive, traditional techniques while expressing contemporary attitudes and whimsy. Every time I look at this pot, with its critters circling around it, my spirit immediately lifts.

Earlier this year we did a photo shoot with Jody at her home studio in Albuquerque, NM, where I fell instantly in love with an extraordinary pot she was working on featuring pueblo women figures. I watched Jody apply the finishing etchings and left her home, pot in hand, feeling truly blessed. I asked Jody if this could be the inspiration for our next jewelry collaboration. We both agreed that it would make a wonderful pendant to honor the strong, loving women in all our lives.

I presented the first sample pendant to Jody this August at Santa Fe Indian Market and was overwhelmed by her joy. The many people in line at her booth to purchase her prized pottery also expressed Jody’s infectious energy about this piece. My day felt complete, and it was only 7am!

I am honored to call Jody my dear friend and am so proud to share that Jody Naranjo is the recipient of this year’s New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts. We decided it was most appropriate to celebrate this honor, and our friendship, with a cuff bracelet featuring Jody’s signature whimsical, yet powerful, animal figures featured on my first piece of Jody’s pottery.  We hope this piece brings you joy as you look down at your hand and think of those who’ve touched you, and the many you touch.

7As you can imagine, Jody’s hands are works of art themselves, carrying within them a layering of knowledge and skill passed down to her from her mother and other female relatives – now transferred on to her own three beautiful and talented daughters. Jody has what I call “smiling hands,” and it has been nothing but a joyous experience being able to work so closely with her and get a glimpse into her own amazing, creative mind. We jive together the way old friends do, and from it, I feel we have created some of my favorite pieces to date.

Please join me and my good friend (and fellow Jody Naranjo collector) Jill Bauer as we debut these truly amazing pieces at 4pm ET on Labor Day, September 3rd!

May you be blessed with the joy and strength of friendship.

Love, Carolyn

#AWYou Monique Candelaria, In Her Own Words

We thought it was about time you met the face of American West Jewelry. Monique Candelaria has been modeling for us since 2015, but this New Mexico-born actor is a diverse and passionate artist with a fascinating story.

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American West Jewelry: How do you describe yourself, artistically?

Monique Candelaria: Artistically, I would describe myself as being fluid. I flow through many art forms every day of my life – whether it be for my career as an actor, singing around town as a passionate hobby, or writing stories or drawing as a form of meditation.

AWJ: Describe the experience of being the face of American West Jewelry.

MC: Honestly I felt truly honored to be considered for such a position. The brand itself embraces the cultural influences of its creative inspirations while emphasizing the empowerment of women. Being born in the state of New Mexico, I am a product of my environment by being a mixture of Mescalero Apache, Aztec and European descent.

Essentially, I feel that by being able to embody the history of my ancestors I have helped bring to life the authenticity of the brand while also emphasizing that acceptance in a diverse mixed-culture can help us evolve and create a better world filled with beauty. I am embodying the values of American West by making sure that I embrace who I am as a person, follow my dreams and never allow myself to be limited by fear.

 

AWJ: Was there a moment when you knew you were going to be an actor?

MC: I was two years in at the University of New Mexico when I realized that even though I excel in science, I was always looking for a way to be creative. I realized I’d rather live a life of unpredictability and be happy than go for stability and live a life of monotony. So, I changed my academic path from science to the arts and ended up graduating in 2009 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre with an emphasis in acting.

AWJ: What have been the highlights of your career?

MC: The seed that allowed my career to blossom was being cast in Bless Me, Ultima where I became eligible for the Screen Actors Guild. Then, The Control Group was my first lead-role on a feature film. It was also my first time having a role where I was sent out of New Mexico to Fergus Falls, Minnesota. I will never forget the feeling of getting on an airplane and knowing I was going to be away from home for a month because I was actually doing something I love.

The most recognizable highlight in my career was being cast in Breaking Bad as “Lucy” in Episodes #501 Live Free or Die and #516 Felina! Suddenly I was getting recognition internationally. It was an exhilarating feeling but one of awe as well because even though I watched Breaking Bad, I had no idea at the time how far its reach truly was.

My most recent major highlight was being cast as a recurring character on a mini series called Snatchers! The second season I was cast in New Mexico, and when the show got picked up for a third season I was flown to Salt Lake City, UT. These 2 seasons have not yet been released but when they do I will definitely post it on my Instagram page (@MoCa369) and on my Facebook fan page. So keep an eye out for it!

If you’re interested in seeing other films I have been a part of check out my IMDb page at imdb.me/moniquecandelaria.

AWJ: Who are the women that have inspired you the most along the way?

MC: The woman that has inspired me the most is my mama. She is the strongest person I know, inside and out, with a heart of gold. She has taught me to always ask questions, take the time to analyze, know where I stand, and never be afraid to fight for what I believe is right.

She has also encouraged me to follow my dreams, and although she gives me my space to create my own life path, she is the one person I know that will always be there for me. She ultimately inspires me to be the best person I can be while finding ways for those around me to shine, as well.

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Ungelbah Davila is American West Jewelry’s blogger, lifestyle photographer and social media contributor. She is Navajo of the ‘Áshįįhi Clan, as well as a native New Mexican of Spanish, Irish, and Sephardic ancestry. Her name, which in English means a woman who has been to war and lived to fight again, was passed to her from her maternal great-grandmother and is a source of personal power that influences the unique narrative she brings to her many art forms.

Help Us End Childhood Hunger

The Roadrunner Food Bank of New Mexico was founded in 1980 with humble beginnings but has grown to be the largest food bank in the state. They provide services to feed the hungry in New Mexico and have a multitude of programs aimed at eliminating hunger. One of these programs is the Childhood Hunger Initiative. This weekend, we’re donating 20% of all proceeds to this organization as our way to help end childhood hunger. SHOP NOW to help us help our children.

To learn more about the Roadrunner Food Bank of New Mexico’s Childhood Hunger Initiative, read below or visit their website at: http://www.rrfb.org/

Childhood Hunger Initiative
Hunger can have immediate and lasting effects on children during the most crucial developmental stage in their lives. The Childhood Hunger Initiative (CHI) at Roadrunner Food Bank is the evolution of our former Food For Kids (FFK) program. Through CHI, the Food Bank aims to feed hungry children by feeding the entire family unit. By working with schools to provide food to families in a variety of ways, the initiative will dramatically increase the amount of food and meals families and their children will receive to solve childhood hunger in New Mexico.

How the Childhood Hunger Initiative Helps Solve Childhood Hunger
The Childhood Hunger Initiative (CHI) works to solve child and family hunger by providing each partner school the ability to receive food from Roadrunner Food Bank through a combination of hunger-relief programs:

School Pantries: Provides each school the opportunity to create a school-based or on site food pantry allowing families to receive help any time it is needed during the school year.
Mobile Pantries – Every month families at participating schools receive a monthly mobile or “traveling” food pantry held at the school’s location. Each family receives about 50 pounds of food including healthy food such as vegetables, fruit, dairy, meat and much more.
Backpacks – Supplements food for children and families in situations where a parent/guardian is unable to pick up food from the school. A small amount of food can be sent home in a backpack with the child to help the family through a short amount of time.