As 2012 winds down and we prepare for our end-of year holidays beginning with Thanksgiving, the 2014 Hunger In America hunger study is beginning to gear up. This hunger study will mark my second as New Mexico’s Hunger Study Coordinator, the first was the 2010 Hunger Study that was actually conducted in 2009.
What the heck is a Hunger Study? That’s a good question, and many people ask the same thing. There are lots of figures released during the course of a year that seek to measure hunger (food insecurity) in our country. They are the results of government compiled reports and university and foundation studies, etc. But they are just figures, and do not directly connect with hungry people themselves or the locally based hunger relief organizations that fight hunger in their respective communities throughout our state. That’s where this hunger study is different.
Commissioned by Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger relief organization, some 200 food banks around the country will be conducting the 2014 Hunger Study in their service areas. For Roadrunner Food Bank this means the entire state of New Mexico.
The hunger study consists of two parts, the first of which (the Agency Survey) is already underway. The Agency Survey was sent to some 436 locally based hunger relief organizations in virtually every community in our state, and seeks information about the service levels, challenges and resources of each agency to paint a picture of those worthy organizations that combat hunger in New Mexico. Following the completion of the Agency Survey (December 15), the Client Survey portion of the study will soon begin. Following a national training meeting for Hunger Study Coordinators from each participating food bank in February, Roadrunner staff and volunteers will fan out around the state to conduct client survey interviews with some 500+ New Mexicans that utilize the services of 500 plus hunger relief organizations (food pantries and meal programs) during their mealtime or food distribution time.
This up-close and personal contact with hungry New Mexicans yields information about hunger in our state (its causes and effects) not readily available from other sources. This is how we learn how many unduplicated New Mexicans seek services form our network of hunger relief organizations around the state each week (40,000 in 2010), how many of those 40,000 are children (40%) or seniors (13%). It’s where we learn how long groceries purchased through food stamps last an average family in New Mexico (2.3 weeks), or how many families have to choose each month between paying their utility bill or purchasing food (54%).
During this holiday season I am thankful that I am not one of those 40,000 New Mexicans seeking food assistance each month. But more than that, I am thankful that I will soon have the opportunity to travel around our state meeting hundreds of wonderful agency volunteers (most do not have staff) that give of their time and effort to combat hunger in their community, and the proud but unfortunate New Mexicans that struggle to put food on the family table, often on a daily basis.
Enjoy your Thanksgiving turkey, Christmas ham or Hanukkah latkes this holiday season, and remember those less fortunate among us.
Art Fine is the 2014 Hunger Study Coordinator at Roadrunner Food Bank.