New Mexico Higher Education Department awards $100,000 to alleviate student hunger

Stephanie Montoya

Five New Mexico colleges to receive grant funding for food pantries and campus outreach.

The New Mexico Higher Education Department is awarding $100,000 to New Mexico higher education institutions for initiatives that address student hunger on college campuses statewide.  

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham approved the funding last year, which will support five $20,000 grants to New Mexico colleges and universities to establish student food pantries and services that directly impact students facing food insecurity.  

“The pervasive stereotype of the ‘starving student’ as a rite of passage is one we need to end. Working with colleges and universities across the state, our goal is to create hunger-free campuses so that students can concentrate on their studies without the distraction of worrying about their next meal,” Higher Education Deputy Secretary Patricia Trujillo said.  “Assuring food security is one of the most basic ways we can let students know that our campuses are communities where they belong and where they can thrive.” 

According to a 2021 research report conducted by the Basic Needs Project at the University of New Mexico, one third of college students reported facing food insecurity. Over half of Native American students and 36 percent of Hispanic students reported experiencing food insecurity.  

Addressing hunger in New Mexico is a priority of the Lujan Grisham administration, and this year the state is investing $24 million across the state via the Food, Farm and Hunger Initiative, $1 million of which will go toward addressing the needs of college students.  

“Hunger can be a secret battle for students. This investment represents an understanding of the need and we’re glad that this will provide direct services to those with food scarcity issues at our college campuses. We look forward to working towards solutions and best practices for this longstanding issue,” New Mexico Higher Education Department Indian Education Director Nathan Moquino said.  

The grant is designed to assist colleges and universities to build essential capacity and infrastructure to create or support efforts to address issues of food insecurity for students, promote wellness, and help outreach to vulnerable students who regularly experience hunger. 

The funding aims to build capacity of student food pantries and other resources on college campuses that directly help vulnerable students. The agency evaluated proposals from New Mexico public colleges and universities and awarded those who demonstrated an ongoing commitment to creating a hunger-free campus. This included establishing an on-campus food pantry or partnership with a local food bank, providing information to students about SNAP and other food programs, partnering with local farms, hosting hunger awareness events, and providing emergency assistance grants for students.  

Eastern New Mexico University – Roswell was among the colleges selected to receive project funding. A recent survey revealed that nearly 40 percent of students experienced food insecurity within the last 30 days. The branch campus will use grant funding from the agency to establish a student food pantry and is already partnering with local nonprofits to identify matching funds.  

“If students are worried about where their next meal is going to come from, how can they think about math problems and essays?” said Todd DeKay, Executive Director of Institutional Effectiveness at Eastern New Mexico University – Roswell. “This grant will give us the foundation we need to address student food insecurity, which will help improve retention, graduation rates, and overall student wellbeing. We could not have started this project without this state funding.”  

The following projects at New Mexico colleges and universities were selected to receive funding: 

  • $20,000 to Doña Ana Community College for “Together We End Hunger: Destigmatizing Hunger Among College Students at Doña Ana Community College.” Funding will support various events to provide information to students on community food resources and partner with local food banks. 
  • $20,000 to Eastern New Mexico University – Roswell for “UFO – Uplifting Food Opportunities: A Food Pantry for ENMU-Roswell.” Funding will create and sustain a campus food pantry, provide SNAP enrollment assistance, fund an annual hunger awareness event, establish partnerships with community food banks, and train campus advisors on SNAP enrollment. 
  • $20,000 to New Mexico State University – Grants for “Feeding and Educating Students to Succeed Academically” (FESSA). The project aims to serve rural Hispanic and Native American students by providing educational opportunities and expanding capacity of the Aggie Cupboard food pantry to serve more students and include infant care, personal care items. 
  • $20,000 to the New Mexico Tech to establish a food pantry on campus. Campus agencies will collaborate with the Socorro Storehouse, Chartwells, and the Socorro Community Food Bank to supply food and continued funding. The food pantry will follow a “shopping” model to reduce stigma surrounding food insecurity and empower students to access resources.
  • $20,000 to the University of New Mexico – Los Alamos to establish a campus food pantry and expand an existing professional clothing closet. Students will have free access to basic needs items including quality food, hygiene supplies, emergency need gift cards for groceries and provisions, and receive education about healthy eating and public assistance programs like SNAP and TANF.