Plenty of programs in NM aim to help ease food insecurity - Albuquerque Journal

Plenty of programs in NM aim to help ease food insecurity

During a time when many of us are thinking about traditional holiday foods, celebratory treats and trying to not eat too much, it is important to think about those for whom food insecurity is a regular struggle.

In 2019, Feeding America estimated that rates of food insecurity in the U.S. were about 11% overall and almost 15% for children; the rates for subsequent years during the pandemic are still being calculated but are already showing huge increases.

In New Mexico, however, those rates are even worse. Overall, food insecurity is just over 14%, while the rate in children is 22%. Almost one in four children in our state does not have access to adequate and healthy nutrition.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently updated the definition of food insecurity to be labeled in terms of food security. Food security is better if a family has adequate access to enough and a variety of quality food, and low if they have inadequate access or experience hunger.

Food security can be a great source of stress for a family but the impact of inadequate access to nutritious foods has a greater impact on children. Kids’ brains and bodies are developing at rapid rates and are disproportionately impacted by the lack of proper nutrition.

Studies have shown that hunger and inadequate nutrition negatively affects a child’s ability to focus in school, impacts self-esteem and may even impair overall health.

The National Scientific Council on the Developing Child states that “the structural foundation for cognitive functioning is laid in early childhood, creating the underlying circuitry on which more complex processes are built. This foundation can be greatly affected by food insecurity. Inadequate nutrition can permanently alter a child’s brain architecture and stunt their intellectual capacity, affecting the child’s learning, social interaction, and productivity. Children who do not receive what they need for strong, healthy brain development during early childhood may never recover their lost potential for cognitive growth and eventual contributions to society.”

We simply cannot afford for our children to live without the nutrients they so richly deserve.

There are many individuals, organizations and federal programs working to end hunger and fight for food security.

Albuquerque Public Schools has programs in place to provide no-cost breakfast and lunch to qualifying students. APS also has 106 schools that have been designated as Community Eligibility Provision schools where all students may receive free breakfast and lunch. Additionally, many schools provide an after-school meal program and send students home with weekend snack packs.

The city of Albuquerque has a Supper Meals program which provides a warm meal for kids to enjoy after school and over the winter break. These meals are automatically provided to registered participants in Community Center programs and are also available for free to any child ages one to eighteen. Please see the website for more information on how to access this program.

There are also free meals distributed during the summer across the state; please see for more information. Our state and federal government have implemented programs to improve access to better nutrition through the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Special Supplemental Nutritional Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Additionally, the Child Tax Credit has recently been expanded and shown to be an important benefit to struggling families.

These government programs provide support based on a family’s income with respect to the federal poverty level and benefit a family’s health and lower poverty rates.

Unfortunately, this level of support does not change with respect to cost of living. Therefore, a family’s income might be just above the cutoff to be considered for support through a governmental program but they live in an area with a high cost of living.

Foods with lower nutritional values are often less expensive than higher quality foods, and many families have reported having to choose buying medications over food.

Thankfully, there are also entities that support individuals and families with food resources that do not rely on their reported income.

One of these amazing entities is the Roadrunner Food Bank of New Mexico. It is the state’s largest food bank which not only provides food items, but partners with community organizations to provide health screenings, nutrition education, clothing assistance and more.

Please consider supporting state and federal programs aimed at improving food security. That gift can have a huge impact and help create a positive trajectory for our kids.

Melissa Mason is a general pediatrician with Journey Pediatrics in Albuquerque. Please send your questions to


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