As cancellations and operational changes to staples persist as a response to the global pandemic, the University’s Lobo Food Pantry remains a hub for hungry Lobos.
Olivia Torres Jojola, coordinator of the Lobo Food Pantry, said the Campus Lobo Food Pantry had 158 students attend in March — a vast difference from the 50 to 70 students it would typically average. This increase came as the novel coronavirus hit New Mexico in mid-March.
The LoboRESPECT Advocacy Center is hosting a weekly Campus Lobo Food Pantry pick-up service every Monday from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. outside the University Advisement and Enrichment Center throughout UNM’s limited operations.
According to LoboRESPECT, pre-made bags are available for students to pick-up, whether they drive or walk and include non-perishable goods, toiletries, diapers, feminine hygiene products and more.
“The guidelines of staying home are going to have people thinking differently about how they buy their food in terms of grocery shopping,” Torres Jojola said.
On March 30, LoboRESPECT posted to their Instagram page they had run out of pre-made bags for the day.
Lisa Lindquist, director of the LoboRESPECT Advocacy Center, said the campus food pantry is now accepting food donations in an extremely cautious and healthy way.
“We had made a determination that regardless of what was going on… we really needed to continue our campus food pantry,” Torres Jojola said.
The campus food pantry used to run as a bi-weekly event but has recently been limited to weekly due to donations slowing down, which happened prior to the pandemic, according to Lindquist.
“In order for us to expand what we could give to students, we had to think a little more cautiously about how we could distribute food,” Lindquist said.
Lindquist also said all staff continues to have employment during this period of limited operations.
“The University has been really committed to keeping folks in place,” Lindquist said.
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Torres Jojola said the pantry has been reducing hours and the number of people in one space at the same time.
“We’re trying to do everything in blocks of five: an hour to pack the food, five people, an hour to distribute the food, five people,” Torres Jojola said. “We’ve been really trying to maximize our volunteers.”
Lindquist said the goal is to receive, package and distribute the food all in one day to reduce health risks for anyone involved.
Volunteers are still encouraged to sign up but will most likely not start helping until this health crisis is over for their general safety, according to Torres Jojola. She said anyone interested in volunteering should reach out through email.
“We’re still cultivating that volunteer force,” Torres Jojola said.
Lindquist said UNM foundations and alumni associations have been helpful in monetary donations, which is needed because the food pantry does a fair amount of purchasing food. Donations from the public are also accepted.
Lindquist highlighted the goal of keeping the campus food pantry open for the benefit of the students.
“We are really trying to meet students where they are at, which is why we’re trying to keep the pantry going,” Lindquist said.
The campus food pantry began in September 2019 and had previously been similar to a shopping experience limited to a two-hour window, according to Lindquist.
“It was sort of like going to the store,” Lindquist said. “We didn’t have any limits on quantities of items but limits were rather what could fit in your basket.”
The LoboRESPECT Advocacy Center also hosts the Mobile Lobo Food Pantry, which has been put on halt during this interim. Lindquist said it will begin again when the University deems it safe.
“We definitely don’t want to give the impression that we’re going away anytime soon,” Lindquist said.
The mobile food pantry started in 2014. This food pantry provides more perishable goods and is open to both students and community members.
The campus food pantry website also lists additional food pantries or soup kitchens in Albuquerque.
“A lot of people are struggling with food and security, not just students,” Torres Jojola said.
The Roadrunner Food Bank started drive-thru distributions on March 27. This occurs every Friday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., or until supplies last, at the UNM south parking lot, as advertised by LoboRESPECT social media.
Megan Gleason is a beat reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @fabflutist2716