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A helping hand to ease student food insecurity

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

University of New Mexico students can get free nonperishable foods and toiletries two times per month at an on-campus food pantry that opened Thursday.

It’s the first time UNM has had such a place on campus, though the school operates a mobile food pantry that offers produce and other foods to students and others in the community once a month.

Lisa Lindquist, director of the LoboRESPECT Advocacy Center, sorts canned goods at the Lobo Food Pantry. The pantry offers students free nonperishable foods and toiletries twice a month. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

The Lobo Food Pantry will be open Mondays from 1:30 to 3 p.m. and Thursdays from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. It’s in the basement of the University Advisement and Enrichment Center.

Students can also make an appointment to have the pantry opened for them if they can’t make those times, said Lisa Lindquist, the director LoboRESPECT Advocacy Center.

Students just need an identification card to get access to the pantry. On Wednesday, the shelves were lined with canned goods, bottled water and other drinks as well as personal items including soap and shampoo. Each time students enter the pantry they can fill one basket with items of their choice.

“We’re really trying to de-stigmatize the thought of low-income (students) and food insecurity. We’re just trying to address something that a lot of students have: a choice of do I pay rent, this bill or groceries,” Lindquist said. “We’re not going to check financial aid status or if you are employed or unemployed.”

According to U.S. News and World Report, about 70% of UNM students get need-based financial aid.

Olivia Torres Jojola, the coordinator of the pantries for the advocacy center, said she is expecting a large turnout of students. The mobile food pantry has served about 8,000 people since it opened in 2014, she said.

“I expect (turnout) to be pretty large just because the mobile pantry has been such a success,” she said. “I think the word is getting out.”

Alejandra Castillo, a sophomore business major, said she thinks the pantry will prove popular for students. She said she may use the resource to get basic necessities or products when she’s waiting for paycheck or budgeting for an upcoming event.

“You have to plan … so you don’t run out of certain things until you get them replaced,” she said. She would use the pantry when she doesn’t “have time to shop or my paycheck hasn’t gotten here yet.”

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