Making Room At the Table: Building Mental Health Through Fresh Produce, Part I

*NOTE: This is the first of a three-part blog feature. Stay tuned over the next two weeks to learn more about building mental health through fresh produce.

“It’s amazing what providing heathy food will do for people.”

From Valerie Gurule, Almas de Amistad-Amity Foundation

Could providing healthy food and fresh produce and reducing food insecurity improve mental health?

For more than 40 years, the Amity Foundation has been recognized for its success in providing residential, in-custody, and intensive outpatient services for individuals marginalized by addiction, trauma, criminality, homelessness, incarceration, poverty, racism, sexism and violence. As a quality health organization, Amity Foundation’s Almas de Amistad community provides comprehensive, integrated, intensive outpatient services to women and women with children in the greater Albuquerque Metropolitan area of central New Mexico:   women working through life after prison; women working through AIDS & HIV diagnoses; women working through past substance abuse struggles; and ultimately, women making a better life for themselves and their families. During this past year, Almas de Amistad has undertaken another step forward in holistic services for the mental, physical, and psychosocial health of the women and families they serve. Such a step could shape how future outpatient programs in New Mexico and beyond can transform their mental health services. It began with this question:

“As a Teaching and Therapeutic Community, we look for the most holistic solutions possible to address trauma and unhealthy lifestyles,” Kena Boeckner, Almas de Amistad’s Benefits & Outreach Coordinator said. Upon enrollment, all women complete an Initial Intake Assessment to identify physical, psychological, and social risks and needs. This provides a critical initial benchmark for a woman’s overall health and wellbeing. A 6-Month Follow-Up Assessment is administered to determine progress toward treatment goals and changes in physical, psychological, and social wellbeing.

Study after study has shown how access to nutritious, quality food (including produce) influences mental health. A 2010 Journal of Nutrition study found that not being able to guarantee consistent meals with nutritious foods increased risks for not only diabetes and other chronic ailments, but increased risks for anxiety and depression, too. When Almas de Amistad expanded their partnership with Roadrunner Food Bank last year, there came an opportunity to acquire fresh, nutritious foods and provide nutritious meals for those in greatest need in our community.

So, how does Roadrunner start to make an impact alongside Almas de Amistad in their clients’ mental health? Stay tuned for next week’s Part II in this series!

Matthew “Matt” Young is the Communications Coordinator at Roadrunner Food Bank of New Mexico. To comment on this or other blog features, you can comment directly below; call Matthew at (505) 349-8845; or e-mail Matthew at

Photo from L-R of Valerie Gurule (Administrative Assistant), Valerie Gonzales (Clinical Supervistor/Senior Counselor), & Kena Boeckner (Benefits & Outreach Coordinator) from Almas de Amistad-Amity Foundation. Photo taken by Matthew “Matt” Young, June 2015.

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