The Lobo Food Pantry, designed to help UNM students and their families in need of assistance, is on year three of its run at the University of New Mexico.
The Roadrunner Food Bank delivers the food to “mobile food pantries,” like the one held at South Lot every month, where families pick out from a variety of fresh and non-perishable items at the drive to stock up their pantries.
“Families are able to choose food that meets their needs,” Roadrunner Food Bank Communications Officer Sonya Warwick said, adding that the pantry is flexible with diet restrictions so families can get food to support their family.
The pantry has food ranging from meat, eggs, and beans, and produce to non-perishables.
Lobo Food Pantry Distribution Director Lisa Lindquist said they try to distribute the food evenly, but if someone wants more produce than provided, they are able to get more.
Tina Zuniga, LoboRESPECT program coordinator, said that two lines are set up for the community and students, to make the experience shorter. In the first half-hour there is a rush, but after that people move through the line fairly quickly.
Students are asked to bring an ID before receiving food, but they will not be turned away if they do not have it, Lindquist said.
Some demographic information must be provided, such as household size, and the number of children, adults and senior citizens in the home.
The last Lobo Food Pantry, held Feb. 17, gave away 1,200 pounds of produce.
New Mexico is ranked 50th for people who qualify as living below the poverty level. NMVoices.org reports that 31 percent of New Mexican children live in poverty, with the national poverty rate at 22 percent.
“People associate free groceries with a social stigma,” Zuniga said. “There are a variety of reasons people are short on food. We want people to know we are here to support them.”
Lobo Food Pantry does not only support students; the program also serves families in the surrounding area who are in need, Lindquist said, with families coming from as far as downtown and the international district.
“We always want to see more students at the food pantry,” she said “I’ve been watching it grow…serving students is something we’re always trying to do. It’s great to see more, but we also support a lot of community members through the service. “
Since the fall of 2016, the Lobo Food Pantry has served 572 families, 701 adults and 317 children, a total of 1,018 individuals, according to Roadrunner Food Bank records. 22,052 pounds of food have been distributed over that time, an average of 22 pounds per person.
Roadrunner Food Bank and LoboRESPECT encourage the community to help by volunteering your time or making a donation. Every dollar buys five meals, Warwick said.
Volunteers help unload 5,000 pounds of food at the pantry every month, Lindquist said. They assist in distribution of groceries, and setting up tables. Many volunteers are students who have have benefitted from the pantry in the past.
Volunteering also gives people the opportunity to build community relations, said Zuniga.
“We recruit a lot of different volunteers from the UNM community,” she said. “They are really good about educating people that come to the food pantry on how they can cook spaghetti, squash and zucchini. It’s a learning experience for a lot of folks that come.”
Cristy Keams, a senior at UNM, has volunteered with the food pantry four or five times, and said the food pantry benefits students by providing fresh vegetables, and new recipes to try out.
“I know that every little bit helps,” she said. “Especially with the students on a budget. Volunteering, to me, is very rewarding.”
Keams, who has received food twice from the pantry, said it is “very helpful.”
“I had recently moved to Albuquerque, still getting a handle on everything, beginning a new program with UNM,” she said. “It was a plus to be offered something I didn't really know was available at the time.”
Keams said the program is an example of how the community comes together to help students.
Interested volunteers can contact the LoboRESPECT office for more details on future volunteer opportunities.
The next Lobo Food Pantries will be held on March 24, and April 28. The pantry is typically open from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Roadrunner Food Bank partners with grocery stores around the state to eliminate food that isn’t being used, Lindquist said. They have received a lot of eggs recently, and in the past have received stocks of yogurt.
According to the Roadrunner Food Bank website, in the last fiscal year the program worked with about 150 sites and delivered food once a month to each location. A large portion of recipients have been children.
Nikole McKibben is a news reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @nmckibben92.