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Spotlight: Food for Love

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Submitted Photo New Mexico native Chevel Shepherd is part of the Food for Love event to help those facing food insecurity.

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

Star-studded benefit concert to help New Mexicans facing hunger

By Christina Stock

Vision Editor

In response to the devastation that the COVID-19 pandemic caused in New Mexico, dozens of the country’s top musicians, singers and songwriters united to help those who have lost their jobs and are facing severe food insecurity for themselves and their families.

One of the artists taking part in Food for Love — a virtual concert on Feb. 13, from 5 to 10 p.m. — is New Mexico’s own, Chevel Shepherd. She is best known for her winning NBC’s music competition TV show, “The Voice,” Season 15, under the tutelage of Kelly Clarkson. Ever since, Shepherd has been working on her music, even during the pandemic, which cut short her touring plans after opening shows for Clarkson, Little Big Town, Brothers Osborne and being invited by the 2019 Indianapolis 500 organizers to open the races with her powerful rendition of “God Bless America.”

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In a phone interview, Shepherd said, “There are a lot of people in New Mexico that are struggling — individuals and businesses. It hurts to see because I love everybody here. It is really cool to see that people are gathering to help to give back to those who have no food. I am honored to be a part of the event.”

Asked what kind of projects she was working on since the pandemic hit, Shepherd said, “I put out a Christmas album and been playing songs for my EP; I’ve been recording covers and posting them on social media. Social media has been a big help to stay connected with people, since I can’t play live in front of them. Other than that, I’ve been spending some quality time with my family, which is nice. But I really miss being out on the road.”

Another project that is still in the works, Shepherd said, is the movie “Wildfire,” based on the award-winning song with the same title by musician Michael Martin Murphy, who performs in the movie along with Shepherd. “I’m not finished filming yet. I am not sure when it will be out, hopefully when this pandemic is over with. I really, really miss performing live. That is something I am really exited about getting back to, hopefully soon,” Shepherd said.

The list of other performers, politicians and other contributors to the virtual concert is impressive. According to the press release, Jackson Browne, Lyle Lovett, David Byrne, The Chicks, Nathaniel Rateliff, Steve Earle and Elle King are among the more than 50 artists set to perform in the star-studded event. Other special guests include: Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, former Gov. Bill Richardson, Sen. Tom Udall, George R.R. Martin, Ali MacGraw and Hampton Sides.

The concert will also be streamed on the organization’s website, Facebook and YouTube pages. The concert is free, but viewers are encouraged to donate to the New Mexico Association of Food Banks (NMAFB). Donations can be made live during the event or anytime on the Food for Love website.

According to the organizers, 100% of all money raised will go toward feeding those who are struggling in New Mexico.

“Each dollar raised can provide up to four meals for a New Mexico family in need,” the press release states.

“The COVID-19 pandemic and associated record unemployment have exacerbated New Mexico’s hunger issue. More and more families are caught between paying overdue bills or putting food on the table. As one in three New Mexico children and one in five adults face food insecurity, New Mexico’s food banks are struggling to keep up with the overwhelming need.”

“It has been an absolute privilege to work with the Food for Love organizing committee — such a passionate group of individuals, focused on meeting the basic needs of those who are struggling in our communities,” President of NMAFB Sherry Hooper said. “The New Mexico Association of Food Banks has been inspired by their commitment to putting on a star-studded event intended to raise funds that will have such a tremendous impact on the lives of New Mexicans.”

In an email on Feb. 5, one of the organizers, Stephen Feinberg, said that they just welcomed Thornburg Investment Management and Thornburg Foundation as lead sponsors of the concert, a total of $50,000 was pledged to match donations.

“We are thrilled that Thornburg Investment Management and Thornburg Foundation have stepped up in such a big way to help New Mexicans struggling to put food on their tables,” Feinberg said. “If other donors help us meet Thornburg’s generous match, that will mean a total of $100,000. That’s enough to provide 400,000 nutritious meals to families all across our state.”

“Since day one of the COVID-19 pandemic, dedicated groups like the New Mexico Food Bank Association, Roadrunner Food Bank and Food Depot have worked around the clock to feed families in crises and continue to do so,” Executive Director at Thornburg Foundation said in the email. “We provided emergency relief funding then and are proud to do so now, and we urge others to give what they can.”

Food for Love will benefit all five of New Mexico’s food banks: Roadrunner Food Bank in Albuquerque and Las Cruces, the Food Depot in Santa Fe, the Community Pantry in Gallup, the Echo Food Bank in Farmington and the Food Bank of Eastern New Mexico in Clovis. Together, these food banks provide emergency food assistance to families in every county, Native American Nation and pueblo in the state.

The press release states, “Food for Love is being organized by a group of New Mexico residents who decided to come together to address one of the state’s biggest needs. They include: Singer and songwriter Terry Allen; actor and writer Jo Harvey Allen; local entrepreneurs Susan Banowsky and Bill Banowsky and businessman Stephen Feinberg.”

“We see the suffering too many New Mexicans are facing and wanted to help in any way we could. We believe music is food for the soul, so we thought we could also use it to feed those in need,” Terry Allen said. “I reached out to a few of my musician friends, and the response was immediate. They didn’t hesitate to step up and help, and it just grew from there.”

“It was a spark that grew like wildfire with so many artists and dignitaries, and we are so thankful,” Jo Harvey Allen said in the email. “We are thrilled to be able to present such amazing talent from a group of artists that are passionate about helping New Mexicans. This Valentine’s eve concert is our love letter to New Mexico.”

For more information, visit foodforlove.org. You can also get updates on Facebook @FoodForLoveNM, Instagram @foodforlovenm and Twitter @Food_for_LoveNM.

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