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Bernalillo County 4-H members help shop for Ronald McDonald House

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Bernalillo County 4-H members unload six shopping carts filled with groceries as the Smith's Supermarket cashier moves the items across the register scanner. When the last item crosses the scanner, the six-foot-long sales receipt totals more than $1,000.

Three youth and an adult standing with Ronald McDonald
A six-foot-long receipt demonstrates the amount of groceries purchased for the Ronald McDonald House on Food Check-Out Day. Bernalillo County 4-H Members Austin Polk, Ashlyn Meeks and Megan Meeks joined Anna Sanchez-Glenn of the New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau and Ronald McDonald during the annual Food Check-Out Day shopping spree at an Albuquerque Smith's Supermarket. (Submitted Photo)

The food will help stock the Ronald McDonald House pantry. It eventually will be used by volunteers who prepare evening meals for the guests at the home-away-from-home facility for out-of-town families of seriously ill children receiving medical treatment at area hospitals.

The 4-H youth helped members from the New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau's Women's Leadership Committee, and Ronald McDonald House Charities of New Mexico staff members, including Ronald McDonald himself, select fresh produce, meat, dry goods and canned goods.

"This is the 16th year the Farm Bureau has partnered with the Ronald McDonald House in this Food Check-Out Day activity," said Anna Sanchez-Glenn, chairperson for the event. "It is a great way for New Mexico farmers and ranchers to help their neighbors during a time of crisis."

Food Check-Out Day is when the average family of four has made enough money from the beginning of the year to pay their food bill for the whole year. Americans spend less than 10 percent of their disposable income on food annually compared to China where it is 26 percent or Indonesia at 55 percent.

"Our 4-H youth were invited by the Farm Bureau women to help shop for the Ronald McDonald House pantry as a community service project," said John Garlisch, Bernalillo County 4-H agent. "The kids also learned how to extend a dollar by buying the largest quantity possible on a limited budget."

The food purchased in this event will last the entire year, according to Kristin Rortvedt, executive director of Ronald McDonald House Charities of New Mexico.

"Other organizations do wish lists and canned food drives for us, but this shopping day provides fresh produce and meat, which is a huge gift to our families," Rortvedt said. "Having 4-H members involved brings in the component of kids helping kids, which has such an impact. For the 4-H members it teaches them community service at an early age and gets them involved in understanding that not everyone's life is like their own."

4-H is more than raising and showing animals at county and state fairs. The youth development program teaches leadership and community service. 4-H is a part of New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service.

"Part of the 4-H pledge dedicates the members to make a better living for their club, their community, their country, and their world," Garlisch said. "Our members try to make a difference in the world and their community."

4-H member Megan Meeks, who helped shop, said she likes helping the families of kids who have cancer or are sick with other diseases. "I think it's cool that 4-H is able to help."

Austin Polk added that he likes helping with the shopping because it is for a good cause that helps people from across the state.

After the food was bagged and loaded into the back of a pickup truck, the shoppers went to the Ronald McDonald House at 1011 Yale Blvd. near the University of New Mexico Medical Center to help stock the pantry.

As they labeled the food items with expiration dates, the 4-H members learned more about the 30-guest-room facility and who it serves.

"Every day New Mexico families with critically ill children travel to Albuquerque for essential medical care not available in their own community," Rortvedt said. "Kids in medical crisis need their parents nearby, and families need a temporary home while supporting their ill children. Staying at a hotel is not financially possible. Providing unduplicated services since 1982, we have provided temporary lodging to thousands of families facing this challenging situation."

Families from across the state have accessed the services of the charity. During 2012, families from 27 counties stayed a total of 8,513 nights. Counties with the largest use included San Juan, 1,976 nights; Santa Fe, 1,073 nights; McKinley, 795 nights; Rio Arriba, 604 nights; Otero, 573 nights; Chaves, 528 nights; and Dona Ana, 428 nights.

"It is truly a statewide charity," Garlisch said. "It is a pleasure to have our members involved in this annual event to help such a vital service."