New Mexico Basic Needs Consortium joins White House challenge to end hunger

Anne Maclachlan

SANTA FE – The Biden Administration announced late last month that New Mexico has joined the White House’s “Challenge to End Hunger and Build Healthy Communities,” a nationwide call-to-action to communities to commit to  helping President Joe Biden end hunger by 2030. 

Established in 2023 via funding from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s Food Initiative, the New Mexico Basic Needs Consortium brings public and tribal colleges and universities together around the issue of food and housing insecurity for college students, faculty and staff statewide. A collaboration between all public and tribal colleges and universities in the state, the group will pursue interventions on campuses throughout the state to improve overall food security and nutrition and increase retention rates, especially for minority students.  

“New Mexico is leading the nation in setting an example of what it looks like to truly support the whole student and putting a much-needed focus on food insecurity and other basic needs challenges. These are issues New Mexico’s campuses face, but this is a nationwide problem. With Gov. Lujan Grisham’s leadership, our state is dedicating resources toward eliminating food insecurity at higher education institutions for the first time, and colleges and universities are working together toward this common goal,” said Higher Education Deputy Secretary Dr. Patricia Trujillo, who has been leading the project on behalf of the department.  

The Consortium is one of two New Mexico projects joining the challenge, the other being Roadrunner Food Bank, which also partners with regional colleges and universities. Over 140 partners have joined the challenge nationwide.  

Since 2021, the New Mexico Higher Education Department has awarded over $2 million to campus food security projects across more than 19 campuses statewide via state and federal funding. In 2023, in partnership with the University of New Mexico, the department also funded the first-ever statewide study of food and housing insecurity among students, faculty and staff at New Mexico college campuses. The survey found that nearly 60 percent of college students were food insecure, more than twice the national average. The survey was conducted across 27 public and tribal colleges and universities and over 15,000 participants were surveyed. The New Mexico Higher Education Department will publish the full report and detailed findings this spring.  

“Our statewide research, funded by the New Mexico Higher Education Department and Gov. Lujan Grisham’s Food Initiative, has revealed that needs-insecure students have lower grade point averages and are more likely to drop classes and potentially quit school before they earn a credential. New Mexico is one of the only states working on the problem of food and housing insecurity on a statewide level and the first to have a statewide college basic needs consortium. What we do here in New Mexico will have an influence nationwide.” said Dr. Sarita Cargas, Director of the University of New Mexico’s Basic Needs Project and lead researcher of the 2023 study.  

“Doña Ana Community College is grateful to the New Mexico Higher Education Department for its leadership and investment in addressing the basic needs of college students,” said Dr. Mónica Torres, President of Doña Ana Community College. “In the last five months alone, we have served over 500 students, and we are working hard with the support of the department and the New Mexico Basic Needs Consortium to ensure that no student's educational journey is hindered by hunger.”  

The college used a college food security grant from the New Mexico Higher Education Department to establish the DACC Comfort Casita, a pantry where students can access groceries and other necessities.  

While food insecurity has long been a concern among college students, national data on the issue was released just this year. A 2022 Public Health Nutrition study found that food-insecure college students were more than 40 percent less likely to graduate from college. These findings were more pronounced among food-insecure, first-generation students, with less than half finishing their degree. Complete College America, the nation’s leading organization dedicated to college retention and completion, has listed basic needs support among their four pillars of success due to the significant impact of food and housing insecurity on student achievement.