Monthly Archives: May 2014
My name is Max Wade, and I am the Co-Founder and CEO of Galloping Grace Youth Ranch in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. We operate a Sustainable Urban Agricultural Education Center focused on cultivating healthy children today, so they can harvest a healthy society tomorrow. It is my passion to introduce and educate children in our community about the wonders of agriculture and the importance of the food produced by this industry. Over the past 75 years, our society has become drastically disconnected with the origins of our food. When asked where their food comes from, the majority of our children would say the grocery store. It is my belief that our children, the future leaders of our world, must understand the importance of what it takes to produce the food needed to feed a hungry nation. Even more importantly, it is essential that they understand the current issues of food waste in our country. Right here in the United States, we throw away 40% of all the food produced annually in our country. This is a devastating realization considering we live in one of the most food insecure states in America.
Giving back comes in so many forms. Whether one gives monetarily, or gives in terms of hours served, it all adds up cumulatively to make a difference for non-profits and the people they serve. And at Roadrunner Food Bank it is no different. Last year, about 12,000 people took the time to come and volunteer here at the Food Bank at least once. Many come three or four times a week, donating tens of thousands of hours of service over the course of a year to make our mission a reality for hungry people across the state who count on the Food Bank for meals for their families. One group that we don’t talk about enough is our corporate volunteers.
I had the unique and rewarding opportunity to care for my grandparents for a number of years. They were both in their 80s and in failing health. I helped them around the house, and I assisted in managing their medications and with personal care. This experience greatly impacted who I am today and allowed me to see firsthand the struggles that older Americans encounter. The financial burdens our seniors face are daunting. With most seniors on a fixed income and the cost of living perpetually rising, even retirees who earned good salaries and budgeted well are seeing their savings dwindle and, in many cases, disappear. Government assistance programs, such as Social Security, are often not enough, and many seniors lack adequate resources to make ends meet. From housing and utilities, to gasoline and food, necessary expenses mount up quickly. The high costs of healthcare, medical devices, and prescription medications hit older Americans particularly hard, cutting deeply into their limited budgets.
On May 2, my heart sank when I saw the Albuquerque Journal headline “Children May Lose Free School Meals.” It reminded me that unfortunately, hunger is a very real issue in our state and one that threatens our community’s future. According to Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap 2014 report, New Mexico is the most food-insecure state in the country when it comes to children. More than 380,000 people are at risk of hunger, and what’s worse is that 150,000 of them are children. Almost 30% or one in three children are at risk of hunger. These aren’t statistics that bode well for our schools, health systems or local economy.
For the second year in a row, New Mexico ranks #1 for childhood hunger. The 2014 release of Map the Meal Gap shows the childhood hunger rate in New Mexico is 29.2% with one in three children growing up hungry. The report shows that more than 150,000 New Mexico children are at risk of hunger. Melody Wattenbarger, president and CEO of Roadrunner Food Bank said, “This should be a wakeup call for everyone in our state. Until we make sure that our children aren’t going to school hungry, we won’t be able to solve any of the other problems we have. If you look at indicators like our children’s abysmal test scores, health, graduation rates and future wages, childhood hunger underpins them all. Agencies like ours can’t address this issue alone. It’s a statewide problem. It needs a statewide response.” Over the past four years, Roadrunner Food Bank’s national organization, Feeding America, has released the annual study to measure hunger and the gap of meals by state and county. New Mexico is fourth in overall hunger among states, tied with Alabama and North Carolina. 18.6% of people in New Mexico are at risk of experiencing hunger in New Mexico overall. Nationwide, the hunger rate is 15.9%. The annual Map the Meal Gap report also estimates the meal gap by state and county and the food budget shortfall for low-income households. In 2014, the report showed New Mexico’s meal gap is 67,795,200 translating into a food budget shortfall of $175,675,500. The average cost per meal in New Mexico is $2.59 according to the report. The top five New Mexico counties with the highest rates of hunger overall and for children are below. Luna County ranked as the hungriest county in New Mexico for both children and the overall population: Children Luna – 39.7% Taos – 32.6% Cibola – 32.4% McKinley – 32.2% Overall Population Luna – 22.9% McKinley – 22.2% Cibola – 18.3% Sierra – 18% Roosevelt and San Juan – 17.7% To Map the Meal Gap in any New Mexico County, visit www.feedingamerica.org/mapthegap.