New UNM interactive exhibit hopes to inspire ‘Food for Thought’

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – New research shows 25.5% of the student population at the University of New Mexico is food insecure – that is down from 31.7% last year but still 1 out of every 4 students. The two groups most affected by food insecurity are Native American (49.1%) and African American students (46.2%).

The new Food For Thought interactive exhibit on UNM Main Campus aims to break down negativity surrounding hunger and share resources for students in need.

Students are encouraged to share their thoughts anonymously on a sticky note.

"Last week we had a question on the board that said, ‘What word comes to mind when you think of food insecurity?’” University Honors student Reagen Barragan said. “A lot of students put ‘distress,’ ‘hunger,’ just things like that, and then this week we changed it to ‘What are some of the effects of food insecurity?’"

"I’ve seen from the sticky notes and the quotes a social stigma," said Sarah Johnson, another honors student who helped develop the exhibit in the University Honors 301-002 course. "It’s a pretty common thing for students to want to go out and eat together or get food, and food insecure students can’t always do that, but it’s kind of awkward and uncomfortable to talk to other students about that."

Other students wrote about the fear that stems from not knowing where their next meal will come from and how hunger impacts their focus, physical and mental health.

"It’s hard, it’s hard to be a student,” Sarita Cargas, UNM associate professor, said. “Tuition is ever-rising, student fees are ever-rising, financial aid is ever-shrinking, so they’re really courageous. They’re really wonderful people who are trying to better themselves, bring their families out of generational poverty, and I applaud them and want to help them as much as possible."

There are many resources across UNM Main Campus for students who are food insecure, like the Women’s Resource Center.

“They can aid students in filling out SNAP applications for supplemental nutrition,” Barragan said. "We have the Lobo Food Pantry in the SUB, which only requires an ID and a mask, and you can go in there. They’re open 5 days a week."

Whether you are the one struggling, or you know someone who needs help, it is important to speak up.

"It’s a huge thing to talk about because food is something that affects every single one of us,” Barragan said. “We eat food every day, whether we realize that it’s something that’s keeping us back or pushing us forward."

The Food For Thought exhibit will remain on display in Zimmerman Library through Nov. 30.