From her experience as a young girl living with her grandmother, Shelby Stuckel knows how tight the budget can be at the end of the month. As a graduate student in public health at New Mexico State University, she is working with a local food bank to make sure seniors have enough to eat every month.
“I’m invested in it because I was raised by my grandmother, and sometimes we struggled at the end of the month when her Social Security ran out,” Stuckel said. “I have empathy and I think it’s neat to meet people to talk to at the mobile food pantries, because they have the best stories and best insights. It’s good to get out in the community and talk to them.”
In August, Casa de Peregrinos Food Bank in conjunction with Roadrunner Food Bank and the City of Las Cruces started a food distribution program at local senior centers across Las Cruces. The senior mobile food pantry now serves five centers: Eastside Community Center, Henry Benavidez Community Center, Munson Senior Center, Sage Café Community Center and Frank O’Brien Papen Community Center. The program distributes once a month at each site and provides 50 pounds of food, which includes 40 percent produce, to 50 seniors at each location.
Stuckel said bringing the food to the seniors is critical.
“We are going to where they are,” she said. “We go to them, where they are for classes or eating lunch. It’s in their community so it’s pretty close rather than having to arrange for a ride if they don’t have transportation. From what I’ve seen, it’s appreciated that we’re going to the senior centers.”
“Shelby is a shining star helping to lead some of our county’s food distribution programs,” said Cindy Kratzke, public health sciences associate professor. “She finds common ground with seniors and other community members who need help with food donations.”
Stuckel began working with Casa de Peregrinos after completing a year with AmeriCorps working with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for the Roadrunner Food Bank. She said she enjoys working with the nonprofit sector especially with food insecurity and socioeconomic disparities issues in the region.
“I was looking for a way to get into nonprofit work and volunteering and giving back to the community after I got back from the Peace Corps,” Stuckel said. “Once I got home, I realized the need here is so great. It was a reintroduction into my hometown. There’s so much we don’t know about.”
Kratzke said it is important for NMSU students to get involved in their local communities.
“Students will work and live in many communities after graduation,” she said. “Students learn to engage in problem-solving. They will actively participate, advocate and integrate health in many ways. Food distribution for those in need is just one way.”
Stuckel returned to the United States in March 2015 after being evacuated from Ukraine after spending six months working in the country for Peace Corps.
To volunteer or donate to Casa de Peregrinos, contact Lorenzo Alba, executive director, at 575-523-5542.
Author: Tiffany Acosta – NMSU