New Mexico Announces Efforts to Combat College Student Food Insecurity

The state's $24 million effort to combat hunger includes a nation-leading initiative to collect data showing how college students are impacted by food insecurity.
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  • New Mexico will be the first state to conduct a statewide survey about college food and housing security.
  • In 2021, 33% of University of New Mexico students reported experiencing food insecurity.
  • The state will also disperse $900,000 among 15 campus-based student food security projects.

New Mexico's $24 million effort to combat hunger includes a nation-leading initiative to collect data and research showing how college students are impacted by food insecurity.

The research project is part of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's Food Initiative and will be the country's first state-run effort to gather data on college students experiencing basic needs insecurity, according to an announcement by the New Mexico Higher Education Department (NMHED).

The Basic Needs Project will be based at the University of New Mexico (UNM). Researchers are developing a survey to launch in 2023 that will go out to students at the state's 28 public and tribal colleges and universities. According to NMHED, the results will help the state develop targeted, high-impact programs to address student basic needs insecurity.

"The body of research on the problem of college hunger and housing insecurity is young but growing," said Dr. Sarita Cargas, a UNM associate professor who will be the project's research lead. "There is no national data for college students like there is for household hunger and very little research has included college students in the Southwest."

The data gathered will not only help the state address food insecurity but also make it easier for students to succeed in college, graduate, and get a job, Lt. Gov. Howie Morales said in the NMHED announcement.

According to the 2021 UNM Basic Needs Report, over 25% of the students surveyed reported experiencing food insecurity, and Native American, Hispanic, Black, and LGBTQ+ students reported experiencing food insecurity at higher rates than other learners.

The NMHED announcement also reported that students at UNM experiencing food insecurity were almost twice as likely to withdraw from or fail multiple courses compared to food-secure students, and almost 20% of food-insecure Native American, Hispanic, and Black students did not return the following semester.

The Basic Needs Project is part of a historic investment in combating food insecurity, with Lujan Grisham directing over $24 million to the Food Initiative this year via an eight-agency collaboration.

The initiative also will disperse $900,000 among 15 campus-based student food security projects such as student food pantries, food hubs, greenhouses, and food education programs, according to NMHED.

The Basic Needs Project is New Mexico's second groundbreaking move this year in the higher education space. Last February, the state legislature passed the New Mexico Opportunity Scholarship Act, which covers career training certificates, and associate and bachelor's degrees at public or tribal colleges and universities.

The law made up to 35,000 New Mexicans eligible to go to college for free starting this fall, according to Lujan Grisham.