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NMSU, DACC take on student food insecurity

Transitioning to college can be tough for many students seeking higher education. Balancing work, school, and often living alone for the first time can quickly become daunting and food insecurity is often a problem.

Dr. Kate Nixon is an osteopathic physician at mountain view. She says that food insecurity can affect people in many different ways.

“You are also going to see a higher incidence of obesity because hunger is going to lead you to choose foods that are more available and affordable which is really junk food unfortunately,” Nixon said.

For many people, the effects don't stop there. Food insecurity has been shown to negatively affect energy levels, cognitive ability, and the ability to concentrate in both kids and adults.

“We know that the academic performance suffers for sure in those populations,” Nixon said.

According to the Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition college students face food insecurity at a rate that is at least 3 times as much as the US household average. Amanda Nunez with the NMSU food pantry Aggie Cupboard knows this well.

“A lot of students are always kinda like do I pay a bill or do I buy groceries,” Nunez said.

Aggie Cupboard has been helping the NMSU population since 2012 and gave away nearly 26,000 pounds of food just in 2021. Nunez says that part of their success is how easy it is for students who may be struggling.

“It is very accessible for the students who are not able to commute off of campus and who financially cannot commute off of campus. A lot of our international students utilize the pantry so it is really important for that,” said Nunez.

NMSU is not the only school running a food pantry. Earlier this year DACC opened up its own on the Espina campus with the hopes of having similar results. Amy Myers is a public health outreach coordinator with the college. She says the resource can help alleviate the stress hunger can add.

“This actually helps them out a lot because it's the stress of not having food on my plate to study properly or concentrate properly. Also, the stress of I need to miss class so that I can attend work in order to provide food for myself and my family so this is how we are trying to reach out to the students and help them,” Myers said.

While this food pantry may have only opened in February, early results look promising.

“It has actually been a great experience to see how much it has helped all of our students right now. We have actually served over 250 students already and the excitement that they get the appreciation that they show, everything that we just utilize to help them they do show a lot of appreciation,” Myers said.

New Mexico as a whole still staggers behind the rest of the country when it comes to food insecurity. As more programs like these are introduced, many are optimistic that a dent could be put in those numbers.

Noah Raess, an NMSU Journalism major, has produced many feature news stories for television, radio, and the web that have covered housing, public safety, climate, school safety, and issues facing refugees.