Higher Education Department dedicates $900K to feed students in need

Stephanie Montoya

Student Food Security Grants to benefit over 15,000 students as part of Gov. Lujan Grisham’s Food Initiative 

The New Mexico Higher Education Department has awarded $900,000 to colleges and universities across the state to ensure that students have adequate food and nutrition to succeed in school.  

The agency’s Student Food Security Grants were awarded to 15 campus-based student food security projects and are anticipated to benefit more than 15,000 students. The grant funding is part of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s Food Initiative, which directed over $24 million this year across eight state agencies, the largest hunger appropriation in state history.  

“Having access to enough nutritious food is often a silent struggle for college students, but one that has a big impact on their well-being inside and outside of the classroom. Thanks to Gov. Lujan Grisham’s Food Initiative and the support of our partners, New Mexico is stepping up to address this issue not just by putting food on the shelves, but by creating an ongoing culture of food justice and education on college and university campuses,” said Higher Education Deputy Secretary Patricia Trujillo, Ph.D.   

Grant funds were awarded to colleges and universities whose projects aim to establish or expand access to food and nutrition including student food pantries, food hubs, greenhouses, and food education programs. The agency prioritized funding for campuses that commit to partnering with local food banks, food pantries and farms, helping students access state and federal food benefits, awarding emergency assistance grants, and leading hunger awareness activities.  

Luna Community College and Navajo Technical University will receive special priority grants to address significant needs on campuses where access to food is limited.  

“I am amazed at the tenacity of our students. They have barriers we don’t even know about and they don’t stop after the K-12 level. The grant provided by the New Mexico Higher Education Department has led campuses like ours to better support student’s basic needs for their success and the wellbeing of our entire community,” said Carol Linder, Director of Allied Health and Public Service at Luna Community College.  

Linder said that three quarters of Luna Community College students live in areas affected by the Calf Canyon/Hermitts Peak Fire.  

At Navajo Technical University in Crownpoint, students travel from as far as the Pueblo of Zuni and Chinle, Arizona, to attend classes. The remote campus has limited access to nutritious food options, so the university has opted to use the funds to deliver fresh food boxes directly to students and provide instruction on cooking with the integration of traditional foods like corn mush.  

“We only have one store in town and their prices are high. You could get a soda and chips for four dollars, so that’s what students tend to do instead of, say, a salad,” said Navajo Technical University Dean of Student Services Jerlynn Henry. “We’re providing the boxes and working to plant apple trees on our campus. That way we know there’s always food available–it's growing in the ground and it’s fresh.” 

The current round of funding builds upon food security work the agency launched earlier this year. Gov. Lujan Grisham approved $100,000 in 2021 to establish the first-ever student food security grants to be administered by the New Mexico Higher Education Department. As a result, four New Mexico colleges and universities established new food pantries and one campus expanded existing resources. Many grantees have also secured matching funds from institutional, community and nonprofit partners. 

The New Mexico Higher Education Department announced earlier this month that it will collaborate with the University of New Mexico’s Basic Needs Project to conduct a statewide survey on student food and housing needs, marking the first time a state has led such a study across all public and Tribal college and university campuses. The findings of the study will help decisionmakers evaluate student basic needs and allocate resources to address them effectively. The study is funded via Gov. Lujan Grisham’s Food Initiative and was championed by New Mexico Sen. Leo Jaramillo.  

“Food insecurity while in college can have detrimental effects on students’ academic performance and health. As a first-generation college graduate, I have experienced food insecurity firsthand. I am happy to support the study which will provide data to support a new set of student success initiatives and interventions that address student’s urgent needs, including hunger,” Sen. Jaramillo said.  

The following New Mexico colleges and universities will receive funding from Gov. Lujan Grisham’s Food Initiative for projects addressing student food security: 

  • Luna Community College will receive $138,000 for “Feeding Rough Rider Success” which will provide food to students in partnership with Meals on Wheels and The Food Depot, expand the on-campus food pantry, and promote healthy food habits.
  • Navajo Technical University will receive $145,000 for “Ch’iiyaan Bee Nihidziil (We Are Stronger with Food)” that will provide nutritious food boxes to students, nutritional healthy cooking demonstrations integrating Navajo traditional foods, and organize anti-hunger projects through student organizations.  
  • Central New Mexico Community College will receive $50,000 for “We Feed CNM: Increasing Access and Collaboration to Address College Food Security,” which will expand CNM’s ability to provide free, fresh produce and shelf-stable foods, host pop-up food events on campus, and launch a marketing campaign to encourage students to seek resources.  
  • Clovis Community College will receive $27,000 for the “CCC Campus Cabinet” to establish an on-campus food pantry, support a community garden to provide fresh produce, and host an on-campus food drive.  
  • Diné College will receive $40,000 for a food security initiative for their Crownpoint campus to provide healthy meal kits to students with limited access to food options. 
  • Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell will receive $50,000 for “Sustaining and Uplifting Food Opportunities (UFO): A Food Pantry for ENMU-Roswell” to expand the food pantry established via the 2021 agency grant, provide SNAP enrollment assistance, and to collect information on student basic needs.  
  • The Institute of American Indian Arts will receive $50,000 for their hunger-free campus initiative that will provide classes on meal preparation and how to apply for SNAP benefits, as well as provide access to the main food pantry and micro-pantries around campus stocked with fresh food, healthy frozen meals, and personal care items.   
  • New Mexico Highlands University will receive $50,000 for “Highlands CAFÉ (Caring About Food Equity)” that will focus on overcoming the stigma of food insecurity and establish and enhance basic needs resources for students and conduct a student basic needs study.  
  • The New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (New Mexico Tech) will receive $50,000 to expand “The Stacks” food pantry in the library, add refrigeration and additional food access points, provide no cost transportation for students to access additional resources, fund student employees for the pantry, and collect data on student food security.  
  • New Mexico State University’s Doña Ana Community College will receive $50,000 for “Together We End Hunger: Comfort Casitas” to establish an in-house food pantry at the main campus in Las Cruces and micro-pantries at four satellite campuses.  
  • New Mexico Junior College will receive $50,000 for the “Thunderbird Food Pantry” to establish an on-campus food pantry, meal vouchers to the cafeteria, and to promote food security.  
  • Northern New Mexico College will receive $50,000 for “La Despensa del Barrio: Eagle Food Pantry” to expand food distribution to serve more students, encourage students to access resources, and connect students with state, local, and federal resources. 
  • Santa Fe Community College will receive $50,000 for their “Campus Cupboard” with a focus on parenting students. They will stock baby food, formula and toddler food options as well as fresh proteins, produce and dairy with the addition of a commercial freezer. 
  • Western New Mexico University will receive $50,000 for the “Mustang Garden” to include a greenhouse for vegetables and herbs, create a food security committee, and expand existing food programs for students.  
  • The University of New Mexico-Valencia campus will receive $50,000 for their food security initiative to stock and fund the campus food pantry, micro-pantry and campus greenhouses to provide fresh food to students as well as provide coupons for students to purchase hot meals on campus.