At least 124,980 children in New Mexico are at risk of hunger right now. This is just one of the unsettling facts that surround the food insecurity epidemic happening currently in our state. Feeding America’s May 2017 “Map the Meal Gap Report” states that 25% of New Mexican children are at risk of hunger. This year’s report makes our state 2nd among all states for childhood hunger. The 2014 New Mexico Hunger Study states that 70,000 hungry New Mexicans seek food assistance every week, among them are children, adults, seniors, rural and urban communities. Map the Meal Gap also confirms that in
New Mexico, food insecure individuals now face, on average, a food budget shortfall of $16.50 per person each week, up from $16.14 last year. For a family of four, this represents an additional $66 a week or $264 a month necessary to meet their needs. If these statistics made you feel upset or uncomfortable, you are not alone. Instead of delving further into the specifics of our food insecurity, I would like instead to highlight some of the organizations and programs that are doing their part to ease the burden of food insecurity New Mexico.
One program doing great things to combat hunger in our state is the Women, Infant, and Children Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program. WIC FMNP is offered at participating New Mexico farmers’ markets between July 1st and Nov 15th of the current market season. Qualified clients of this program receive $25 worth of checks that can be used to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at New Mexico Farmers’ Markets. Checks come in $5 increments and no change can be given.
The Fruit & Vegetable Prescription Program (FVRx) is a federal program running in Española, NM in partnership with El Centro Family health and Wholesome Wave Foundation. The FVRx connects federally qualified health clinics and their patients who suffer from diet related illness such as obesity. Diabetes, and hypertension with “prescriptions” or incentives that are used to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at their local farmers’ markets. I find this especially interesting, because it addresses a couple issues at once, dealing with health concerns in a more holistic way, by offering whole foods as a remedy, the local farming economy also gets stimulated and local farmers are being supported, this program to me is a fantastic example of the triple bottom line being applied in a real-life situation.
Another awesome example of an organization making whole, healthy foods accessible to more new Mexicans is the “Healthy Here” Mobile Farmers Market run by Bernalillo County. The “Healthy Here” Mobile Farmers Market provides Albuquerque’s international district and South Valley with healthy, affordable, organically grown fruits and vegetables, and educational resources for how to prepare seasonal produce in easy, cost-effective ways. The educational proponent that this organization offers is key in keeping fresh healthy foods in demand, as well as relatable in underserved communities.
ECHO food bank is located and in operation throughout the northern half of New Mexico, The Economic Council Helping Others Inc. provides resources and education to individuals and families of New Mexico. ECHO has many programs in place aiming to improve the lives of New Mexico, one of these programs is the ECHO food bank.
Road Runner Healthy Food Center in an amazing program, aimed at creating self-sufficiency and striving to end hunger in New Mexico. The Healthy Food Center is a medical referral food pantry providing folks experiencing food insecurity or chronic illness. Their focus is distributing fresh fruits and vegetables, while offering healthy alternatives to every day choices. The Healthy Foods center also has a demonstration kitchen for on-site cooking activities and education.
Agri-Cultura is a local farmer owned cooperative, specializing in sustainably grown produce. One of the projects coming out of Agri-Cultura is called La Cosecha. La Cosecha is a community supported agriculture project comprised of over nine different local farms, with emphasis on providing fresh produce to low income families in the South Valley. La Cosecha provides it members with weekly shares of produce, such as locally and sustainably produced fresh fruits and vegetables.
La Semilla is a Food Center and non-profit corporation in the Paso Del Norte region of southern New Mexico, and El Paso Texas. Their mission is to build a healthy, self-reliant, fair, and sustainable food system. La Semilla is currently running four programs. They have a community farm; an Edible Education program that works with local schools to implement on-site school gardens, and trains teachers to incorporate cooking and gardening into their lesson plans; Farm Fresh Mobile Markets, a mobile farmers’ market program that aims to connect farmers to local farmers’ markets and other venues in which to sell their produce; and the Food Planning and Policy Council, which advocates for local food and farm policy that addresses the triple bottom line.
Although confronting hunger and food insecurity may seem like a daunting task, don’t let that paralyze you, or stop you from getting involved with the many programs happening all around us. This is an opportunity for us to make sure that everyone in New Mexico gets the food they deserve. Understanding that there is no shortage of programs or organizations to get involved with, hopefully serves as an invitation for you to take part in ending hunger in New Mexico.