It was a passing of the torch of sorts this week when the New Mexico State University community gathered to celebrate the success of its second “Eat for Pete” campaign to fight food insecurity on campus.
Aggie Cupboard, a food pantry that provides bags of non-perishable food items to students and employees at several NMSU campuses, received a check for $800 contributed by four Las Cruces restaurants. The NMSU Alumni Association teamed up with Chick-fil-A on University, Dublin’s Street Pub and Grill, Lorenzo’s Italian Restaurant and El Sombrero Patio Café, each of which donated a portion of their proceeds on special “Eat for Pete” days in April and May.
The pantry is in the process of moving to a new, larger location at 906 Gregg St. in the student family housing community at the Las Cruces campus, where it will have more storage space and can serve additional clients in a more private setting. Aggie Cupboard hosted an open house Tuesday in connection with the presentation of a ceremonial check.
The celebration was bittersweet for Aggie Cupboard founder Lori Martinez, who will move on this month from her role with NMSU’s Social Work Services office to a new position with a local non-profit group focused on education initiatives in Dona Ana County.
“It’s been a privilege and a pleasure to see how our community has rallied around our students and our staff,” said Martinez, who has worked at NMSU for more than nine years. “It can be difficult and frustrating when we see all of the challenges that our students face, but it brings me a lot of hope and encouragement to see that, when it comes down to the basics of human decency and what people need, we can step up.”
Taking over Martinez’s role in Social Work Services and oversight of Aggie Cupboard will be Meg Long, who has worked as the program specialist for WAVE, NMSU’s Wellness, Alcohol and Violence Education program, since 2013.
“It’s so encouraging to walk into a program that has so much support from the community and from the university,” Long said. “I can’t tell you how excited I am to start this new project and to help expand on all the work that Lori’s done and what she’s provided to the students and the staff at the university.”
Martinez said each dollar the pantry receives can be stretched into one full meal for a student or employee in need. The pantry’s impact has grown significantly since it was founded in 2012. That first academic year, Aggie Cupboard distributed 543 bags of food; during the 2015-16 school year, the volunteer staff gave out 966 bags, helping nearly 250 people make ends meet during that time.
To honor Martinez’s work in building Aggie Cupboard from the ground up into an organization that has distributed thousands of bags of food to students and employees at the Las Cruces campus, as well as Dona Ana Community College and now the NMSU Alamogordo campus, the NMSU Foundation contributed an additional $500 gift to the pantry in her name.
Martinez said she was reminded very recently of the impact of Aggie Cupboard when she bumped into a former student, a mother, who had used the food she received from the pantry to make ends meet and complete her degree. Now a graduate, the woman has a great job and expressed her gratitude for the boost that Aggie Cupboard provided when she needed it.
“We may not be able to fix everything, but we can feed people. We can make sure that our students and staff who are here to better themselves and to pursue their education can make it to that finish line,” Martinez told the gathered crowd at the celebration. “I hope you never forget that this is what your generosity makes possible.”
Aggie Cupboard will re-open in its new location, 906 Gregg St., on May 25. Non-perishable food items can be dropped off Thursdays from 1 to 3 p.m. and tax-deductible monetary gifts can be made any time at giving.nmsu.edu – just specify Aggie Cupboard as the fund for the gift.
Food will be distributed from 3 to 6 p.m. on Thursdays during the summer, and anyone with a current NMSU identification card may pick up items.
Author: Amanda Bradford – NMSU