Catron County Commission on Aging

The What A Waste program can work with ANY senior nutrition program, regardless of size. In fact, we were delighted to venture out to one of the most rural programs in the United States. The beautiful State of New Mexico posed an interesting proposition to us: come here and work with us to end food waste in a remote town high in the mountains. And so we did. Reserve, New Mexico, is a village in Catron County. According to the 2010 census, the population was 289. This was down from 387 in the 2000 census.

When we did a little research on Wikipedia about Reserve, before we arrived, we learned that the village had two grocery stores, a hardware store, a bar, fairgrounds and a health clinic. So, we were prepared for rural. What Wikipedia couldn’t convey is how beautiful the scenery is and just how wonderful the folks who live there are.

Reserve is situated in the Gila National Forest about 12 miles east of the Arizona/New Mexico border. It’s the county seat of Catron County, the State’s largest and least densely populated county. According to the census 39.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 16.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. That’s where the Catron County Commission on Aging comes in.

This fantastic organization is home to three senior nutrition sites throughout the County. The Southern part of the County is served by Glenwood Senior Center, Central is Reserve Senior Center and Northern is Quemado Senior Center. Each site provides both congregate and home delivered meals. Each site has a full kitchen and dining room. The breakdown of meals served is as follows: Reserve Senior Center– congregate meals average 21 persons per day and home delivered meals average 38 persons per day; Glenwood Senior Center– congregate meals average 21 persons per day and home delivered meals average 7 persons per day; Quemado Senior Center provides 13 persons per day with congregate meals and 9 persons per day for their home delivered meals.

The Reserve Senior Center was the program selected to participate in the What A Waste project. And, they really wanted to participate! Their application stated: “We applied to take part in the What A Waste project because we believe that doing our part to deal with the waste issue in our country not only improves our lives, communities, and country, but also our organization as a whole. But at the end of the day we wanted to participate because it is the right thing to do.”

The project was a commitment of time, energy and passion. The results were astounding. In the end, Louise Menges, the Executive Director of the Catron County Commission on Aging said: “This project has had an enormous effect on how we look at our food program. It changed how we look at waste within our kitchen and our responsibilities and our program and our seniors. It helped us in adjusting our kitchens to better serve our seniors. This has been such a huge benefit to our organization, as well as our seniors. We thank you for allowing us to be a part of something that has change our rural little area.”

No, Louise, we thank you for working with us on this project and know that you will sustain it, nurture it, and enhance it.

Now, the results:

Fruit and vegetable waste decreased by 13%.
Daily food waste decreased by 80%.
Decrease in cost of annual food waste was 91%.
As a result of What A Waste an innovative compost/gardening operation was started at the Center.
Community volunteers helped build the compost/garden.
Seniors themselves (along with staff) tend the garden.
Food wasted that is compostable is composted onsite. The nutrients from the food waste diversion feeds the garden.

It should be noted that the results of this successful program have been astounding. In fact, the Center has seen a 96% reduction in the Center’s daily pan waste (food that is prepared, but not served.)

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