New Mexico's Food Activists Shine Light on Hunger
Thursday, September 7, 2023
The lines at hunger relief organizations are longer now as pandemic-related benefits have ended, but you can help your neighbors with grocery supplies during September's Hunger Action Month.
Jason Riggs, manager of community initiatives for Roadrunner Food Bank, said the expansion of federal and state complimentary food programs kept food insecurity down, but now more people are queuing up for fruits, vegetables and canned goods.
He noted every New Mexico county has people struggling with hunger.
"Many of them facing disabilities, many of them facing undiagnosed mental health conditions, many are veterans, many are just hitting a very bad streak, and it is an entitlement program," Riggs outlined. "This is something we all pay into with the promise that it will be there when we need it."
Roadrunner has seen an increase in customers after federal expansions to programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program ended. Congress is now debating reauthorization of the nation's Farm Bill, which will include how much is spent on nutrition programs.
Sonya Warwick, director of communications and events for Roadrunner Food Bank, said food and nutrition programs for low-income earners account for the largest portion of the farm bill.
"What we're really trying to get people to do is urge Congress to pass a strong Farm Bill," Warwick emphasized. "This is legislation that really impacts part of the food that we distribute at food banks, in addition to things like the SNAP program."
Riggs explained since the COVID-related funds dried up, food banks, including Roadrunner, need to buy groceries at high prices because donations are not meeting demand from families in need.
"It's a really frightening proposition right now," Riggs stressed. "When the entire food bank network is shifting models a little bit to purchase more food because the supply-line chain is a lot different now than it was before the pandemic."
He added the average person in New Mexico accesses the SNAP program for a year and three months. Gifts to Roadrunner are doubled dollar for dollar this month, up to $25,000, thanks to matching funds from the Abram and Ray Kaplan Foundation.
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