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Food Security Grants Awarded to NM Higher Ed Schools

NMHED logo and "ENMU-Ruidoso Receives Food Security Grant" graphic

Higher Education Department awards $1M in food security grants to NM colleges and universities

NM Higher Education Dept logo

8 higher education institutions to receive funds to address food insecurity on college campuses

SANTA FE – The New Mexico Higher Education Department announced Thursday that it has awarded a total of $1 million to eight New Mexico colleges and universities to fund innovative projects that address food insecurity among students, faculty and staff.

Part of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s Food Initiative, this year’s grants were made possible through federal pandemic relief funds via the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Since 2021, the New Mexico Higher Education Department has directed a total $2.1 million toward improving access to healthy food and nutrition services on college campuses, benefiting an estimated 15,000 students statewide.

“Access to nutritious food is a necessity and a cornerstone of academic achievement, particularly for our rural, low-income and historically underserved communities,” said Higher Education Deputy Secretary Patricia Trujillo, Ph.D., who oversees the project. “By integrating food sustainability into the long-term culture of our college campuses, we not only nourish bodies but cultivate holistic environments where every student can thrive,”

The agency prioritized funding for initiatives that demonstrated innovation, including the creation of sustainable on-campus food systems. Examples include growing fresh produce on campus and partnering with culinary arts education programs or local industry.

In 2023, NMHED partnered with the University of New Mexico’s Basic Needs Project to conduct the first-ever statewide survey of food and housing insecurity among students, faculty and staff at all New Mexico public and tribal colleges and universities. The survey found that nearly 60% of New Mexico college students are 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 department and UNM will publish the full report and detailed findings later this spring.

Last year, NMHED and the UNM Basic Needs Project also established the New Mexico Basic Needs Consortium, a collaboration between all public and tribal colleges and universities to continue to study and address campus food insecurity. The Consortium was one of two New Mexico organizations this year to join the White House’s Challenge to End Hunger by 2030.

Lorenzo Reyes and his team at San Juan College in Farmington are using their grant to remove the stigma of food insecurity and provide nutritious food to the campus community via food boxes. Phase two will launch a Harvest Kitchen Incubator that will partner with local businesses to train cooks who may find jobs with them afterward. The kitchen will also be used for food truck menu prep, college courses in food preparation, and business training, thus helping to support and expand local business.

“Students are making decisions between basic needs – like rent and gas – and meals. Through no fault of their own, some families have no disposable income and are down to one meal a day,” Reyes said. “We’re a commuter school, with people traveling 50-plus miles to get here.”

Reyes said some students use all the money they have on gas to get to school, and then live in their cars. Food is a luxury.

Reyes estimates the incubator will support ten new businesses each year, creating approximately 180 jobs over the next nine years.

The following colleges and universities received college food security grants from NMHED:

  • $150,000 to Clovis Community College to expand the Campus Cabinet Program, including hosting a hunger awareness campaign, installing snack stations on campus and expanding community partnerships with local farms to provide fresh produce.
  • $235,000 to Eastern New Mexico University – Ruidoso to create “Campus Connections,” a project establishing community kitchens where students can access and prepare nutritious food, take cooking classes, and receive a weekly food box. The program will also develop a hunger task force with area partners and connect students with area resources.
  • $125,000 to Navajo Technical University for “Nihits’íís Tah Hózhộ Nahásdlíí’ (Feeding our Spiritual Well-being).” The project will integrate cultural practices and traditional knowledge about agriculture and wild plant identification, plant a raised garden, provide cooking demonstrations and develop a cookbook. Boxes of nutritious food will also be provided to students, faculty and staff. Student organizations will also host events emphasizing budgeting for food and destigmatizing hunger.
  •  $125,000 to San Juan College for “Accelerating Sustainable and Inclusive Approaches to Food Security” to conduct outreach to vulnerable groups, coordinate cross-campus initiatives, conduct a hunger awareness campaign, and collaborate with local farmers and entrepreneurs.
  • $220,000 to Western New Mexico University for phase two of their food security and farm program. The “Grow Our Own” program will involve students, faculty and staff in growing food on campus, integrating academic programs and partnering with local experts. The program will provide fresh produce to the campus community and provide food cultivation and cooking classes for college and high school students.
  • $50,000 to Eastern New Mexico University – Roswell for the “Cosmo’s Cupboard” food pantry. The funding will support existing college, adult education and early college high school students served by the pantry and expand services to meet the needs of faculty and staff.
  • $50,000 to New Mexico State University – Grants to continue the existing food pantry, expand the hoop house garden, launch campaigns to destigmatize hunger, and provide nutritious food and snacks to go.
  • $45,000 to the University of New Mexico’s Basic Needs Project to publish and promote the first statewide college basic needs report. Funds will also support outreach and collaboration within the New Mexico Basic Needs Consortium.

While food insecurity has long been a concern among college students, 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.

For more information on the New Mexico Higher Education Department and student basic needs, visit hed.nm.gov.