In New Mexico, many agencies throughout the state depend on Roadrunner Food Bank to help provide them with food to reach those in need.
People facing food insecurity do not pick food up at the food bank. However, Roadrunner does provide food to other non-profits who have food pantries and kitchens. The food bank also delivers to people in need.
Throughout the week trucks arrive at the warehouse in Las Cruces to disperse the food to agencies and people in need.
Valerie Torrez with Roadrunner Food Bank says the state is facing a serious hunger problem. The food bank helps 40,000 people each week.
“According to the Feeding America Map the Meal Gap study in 2013, New Mexico is ranked number one in childhood hunger right now, and actually number two in overall hunger.”
In November, cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) put pressure on Food Banks to deliver to folks who no longer were receiving what was formerly known as food stamps.
With the U.S. House and Senate in discussions on the long delayed Farm Bill, agencies across the country are anticipating major cuts to SNAP benefits.
“Unfortunately in both of those bills they are cutting the snap benefits even further, so that will increase the number of people who are coming to pantries and kitchens who need food, because they don’t have the money or the government support from SNAP in order to get that food,” says Torrez.
With food insecurity expected to rise in the state there are organizations that are encouraging more sustainable food options.
Aaron Sharratt, Director of Development and Administration at La Semilla Food Center located in Doña Ana County, says La Semilla is addressing the future of food insecurity by educating youth on sustainable food practices.
“The average food today travels over 1500 miles from Farm to plate. We know that with rising energy costs, with climate change, and water scarcity in the region that just is not a sustainable model,” says Sharratt.
The organization’s “Farm to School” program is one example where La Semilla holds educational sessions, plants school gardens, along with offering volunteer opportunities for youth to work at a community farm.
La Semilla also works to help promote local farmers markets. A growing number of farmers markets are now accepting Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) to help those who may be dealing with food insecurity.
The group is working with educating youth, because youth are facing food security issues in counties around the state.
“In Doña Ana County we know that the food insecurity rate among children is somewhere near thirty-eight percent. More than a third of children live in households that are food insecure,” says Sharratt.
Sharratt says educating youth and communities on a healthy and self-reliant food system also encourages better academic performance and an alternative to deal with food insecurity in the region.