Storehouse West Executive Director Jim Payne, center left, and Rio Rancho City Councilor Bob Tyler cut the ribbon, while Rio Rancho Regional Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jerry Schalow, between the two, and a group of volunteers and donors look on to celebrate the installation of 57 solar panels at the pantry in Rio Rancho on June 19.
(Amanda Britt/ Rio Rancho Observer)

Storehouse West food pantry celebrated the addition of 57 solar panels to the facility last week, in hopes of increasing sustainability and saving money on electricity.

The $51,000 investment will save the company $400 to $500 a month on operating costs, according to Jim Payne, Storehouse West executive director.

Payne said the project initially started with donors wanting to contribute to their operation in a sustainable way.

The facility provides about 500 clients a month with canned and non-perishable foods, as well as frozen and refrigerated foods. It also has a walk-in cooler and freezer, which contribute to energy costs.

Payne said about 80 percent of electrical use at Storehouse comes from refrigeration.

The money saved from the solar panels will initially go to Storehouse West’s reserve account, but in four to five years, depending on the amount of donations to replenish their reserves, the money will go to general operations, including electricity bills.

The non-profit facility runs mostly on donations and the help of volunteers. Roadrunner Food Bank partners with Storehouse West to contribute much of the perishable food, which goes toward feeding people throughout Sandoval County.

The Storehouse is considered an emergency food pantry, meaning it provides supplemental food for families in need. Typically, a week’s worth of food is given to each member of a family per month.

In addition to providing food to the community, Storehouse West provides clothing and books to children in need with the Kids Clothing Closet.

Storehouse West leaders encourage people throughout the community to donate any gently used clothing, books and games for children, in addition to food items. They are also looking for volunteers to work with clients, as well as organize and label foods in the pantry.