Dozens of people got a first look at the University of New Mexico Lobo Food Pantry’s new location on campus – a telling moment, seven years in the making, of passion and dedication to continue to meet the needs of student Lobos.
Wednesday, students, staff, faculty and alumni from around the state gathered in the atrium of the Student Union Building for the grand opening.
“I love coming back to this campus to see the continued growth,” said Stephanie Rodriguez, New Mexico Higher Education Department secretary. “Over 16 percent of households in New Mexico are food insecure. A lot of the time our focus is within the K-12 sector versus our colleges and universities. I’m excited to hear there are opportunities on this campus, so that if you need food, you have a place to go, no questions asked.
Rodriguez, a UNM alum, also pointed to a report released last year by the UNM Basic Needs Project.
“Your institution is the only school in the state that has completed a basic needs assessment – an assessment that has helped guide the state in implementing other food pantries at institutions in rural communities," she said.
The assessment found that one in three UNM students were food insecure. President Garnett Stokes, who was also in attendance, addressed the crowd.
“What we know for sure is that when students are hungry or food insecure, we have found, that often translates into lower GPAs, and a greater likelihood that they will withdraw from their courses. The abandoned dreams and lost potential are an immeasurable loss to everyone,” she said. “Helping meet the needs of our food insecure students is one of our most vital services. Our Lobo Food Pantry works tirelessly in this regard – a task that was made all the more challenging under the conditions imposed by a global pandemic.”
The Campus Lobo Food Pantry primarily offers students shelf-stable, non-perishable food items and plans students fresh produce on a more regular basis.
In 2014, the Dean of Students Office began the Mobile Lobo Food Pantry in response to student hunger. The program continued to expand over the years as students expressed the need of an on-campus space. Since 2019, the Campus Lobo Food Pantry has operated out of the University Advisement & Enrichment Center.
“Now, it’s in a centralized location, somewhere everyone has access to, and everyone can feel comfortable going," said Taysear Ali, UNM senior.
“We are excited to bring this resource to a location that is more accessible and visible to our students as food insecurity is an issue impacting many,” said Lisa Lindquist, LoboRESPECT Advocacy Center director.
Since its creation in 2014, the pantry has served 11,869 community members in 4,862 households — 3,499 of those being UNM students.
“I feel fortunate to work with people passionate about ending student hunger and to help students with one of their most basic of needs,” said Olivia Torres Jojola, LoboRESPECT Advocacy Center program coordinator.
Donations in support of the Lobo Food Pantry can be made through the UNM Foundation.