A food pantry that provides needed support to students and employees at New Mexico State University and Dona Ana Community College received an infusion of cash at a crucial time, thanks to a Homecoming week partnership between the university’s Alumni Association and several Las Cruces restaurants.
During the inaugural week-long “Eat for Pete” fundraiser, Aggie alumni and friends brought in an easy-to-print voucher to Buffalo Wild Wings, Jason’s Deli, Chili’s and La Posta restaurants on designated days, and the restaurants donated a portion of the proceeds of those meals to Aggie Cupboard food pantry. In all, the community partnership brought in $2,200 to the pantry, allowing organizers to purchase necessities like peanut butter, rice and canned veggies. The pantry can stretch each dollar into one full meal, so the gift will buy about 2,200 meals.
Lori Martinez, an NMSU social worker and founder of Aggie Cupboard, said food insecurity is a problem that is being faced by more and more universities, and NMSU was among the first campuses in New Mexico to address the issue through a community supported food pantry, which relies primarily on donations and volunteers.
According to the first comprehensive national study on hunger and university students, which took place earlier this year, food insecurity is not a fringe issue affecting a few students, but in many ways is the norm. The study found that for a large majority of students, working through college and receiving financial aid while still struggling to make ends meet is very common.
“As a university community, we have to think about how this affects our students’ abilities to attend to their studies,” Martinez said. “When you don’t know where your next meal is coming from, it can be really difficult to focus on the class project you need to finish, or buy the books you need for class. We have the resources and the generosity to help students and employees get food on a regular basis, and it’s empowering to see our community come together and continue to help this program grow.”
NMSU Regent Jerean Hutchinson, who owns La Posta restaurant with her husband, Tom, said she was happy to see the Alumni Association and the University Advancement team take an innovative approach to raising needed funds and connecting the university to the broader Las Cruces community.
“We loved the idea of ‘Eat for Pete,’” Hutchinson said. “What a great way for our alums to come together during a time of celebration and do something to help the people in our campus community who need a little boost.”
Leslie Cervantes, associate vice president for alumni engagement and stewardship, credited the Alumni Association staff with the success of the fundraiser, which will return in the spring.
“This team was thinking outside the box and worked with our restaurant partners to create a wonderful opportunity for our alumni to connect with a cause they really care about,” Cervantes said.
Martinez said the approaching holiday season is always a time when the need for Aggie Cupboard is great. Many students don’t have the means to go home for the holidays, or may need to work during the break to make ends meet for the spring semester. A number of campus departments and organizations are already collecting food to donate to the pantry.
Non-perishable food items can be dropped off Thursdays from 9 a.m. to noon at Regents Row, Room B114, located at 3055 Williams Ave., near Zuhl Library in the center of campus. Tax-deductible monetary gifts can be made any time at giving.nmsu.edu – just specify Aggie Cupboard as the fund for the gift.
Food is distributed from 3 to 6 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays in Regents Row, Room B114, and anyone with a current NMSU identification card may pick up items.
For more information about Aggie Cupboard, including volunteer opportunities, contact Martinez at firstname.lastname@example.org or 575-646-2731. To read the full Hunger on Campus report, visit http://bit.ly/hungeroncampus
Author: Amanda Bradford – NMSU