Featured in the Santa Fe New Mexican.
By Ellen Buelow & Garry Fairbrother | March 6, 2021
The face of hunger is often hidden in our midst.
Hidden in places where we least expect to find it — like on college campuses. Professor Sarita Cargas’ 2020 study of hunger at the University of New Mexico reports that 1 in 3 students is “food insecure” — a cruel euphemism for hungry. Specific populations suffer even more: 52 percent of American Indian students at the University of New Mexico experience hunger, along with 46 percent of students who identify as gay or lesbian and 35 percent of Hispanic students. These students are taking great financial risks to pursue a college degree and become part of the middle class. However, it is a struggle to pay for life’s necessities, and often these students have to decide between paying for food or paying for school.
Trinidad, who like many, went to college later in life, is an example of the struggle. He and his wife, Yvonne, were both working, but their combined income was not enough to support their growing family, which included two children. Yvonne had graduated from college, but Trinidad had not attended at all. They decided Trinidad needed to go to college so he could secure a better job, while Yvonne continued working to support the family. She made up a strict weekly budget that included food as well as rent, utilities and other expenses. They bought eggs and milk for the children, and for protein, bought one chicken and a little ground beef a week. The budget was extremely tight but it worked — if nothing went wrong. But things have a way of going wrong, like when the car broke down or when one of the children needed to go to the doctor. Then, the stress and anxiety of trying to make ends meet set in. Trinidad and Yvonne would look at the bills to see if any could be put off. Food was the first to be cut — not for the children but for the adults. The parents skipped meals until Yvonne’s next paycheck came in.