This fall, the Storehouse set a new record for the number of households provided food in a one-month period. In total, we provided free groceries to 3,109 households in November 2023. Of note, those are households, not people, so the number is higher. Our records indicate that adds up to 6,130 people, including 3,127 children. While the Storehouse is proud to continue to meet this need in our community, thanks to donors and volunteers, this speaks to the increased need for food pantry services. Further, these record numbers of food pantry clients are part of a continuing trend across the United States.
By the Numbers: Food Insecurity
According to data from the United States Department of Agriculture, 12.8% of U.S. households experienced food insecurity in 2022, compared to 10.7% in 2021. In households with children under the age of 18, an alarming 17.3% were affected by food insecurity. Although the USDA’s numbers for 2023 have yet to be published, the numbers are expected to be similar if not increasing.
In New Mexico, the data is also troubling for food insecurity. According to Feeding America, 285,220 New Mexicans are facing hunger. Worse, 90,490 of those people are children. One in 5 children in our state experience hunger.
Benefits, Inflation, & Employment Woes
Food insecurity is hitting record levels for multiple reasons. In the spring of 2023, the expanded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits created during the pandemic came to an end. Those additional dollars for families and individuals on SNAP stopped when the Federal Public Health Emergency ended. Although these additional benefits ended, the needs did not. Low income families found themselves with less SNAP funds to buy food. In turn, record numbers of people relied on hunger organizations to supplement the groceries they were able to buy.
Inflation, which decreases purchasing power, also had an impact. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, inflation has risen 3.1% over the last 12 months. Ultimately, this affects the amount of groceries people can buy.
Finally, employment issues matter when it comes to hunger. Unemployment rates have dropped since their peak in April 2020, but the unemployment rate in New Mexico remains higher than the national average. According to an August 2023 review by the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions, New Mexico still ranks number 11 in the United States for the highest unemployment rate.
Record Numbers During the Holidays
The last record set at the Storehouse for numbers of households served was in November 2019. Of course, that aligns with the new record in November 2023. Both occurred during the holiday season. While families work to balance their budgets for groceries throughout the year, the holiday season presents additional challenges.
First, the holidays have societal expectations for certain foods or provide special meals based on holiday or family traditions. During most of the year you might be able to make a pot of beans and red chile and eat it for several days in a row. However, that’s not true during the holidays. Thanksgiving is known as “Turkey Day” because of the expectation to serve a big turkey and a bunch of traditional side dishes. Those costs are outside the usual weekly budget, so more people turn to food pantries. In fact, the Storehouse gave out 1,060 turkeys to local families the week leading up to Thanksgiving this year. Of course, we included side dish essentials, too.
Help us Tackle Record Numbers of Clients
With the record numbers of people who need food pantry support coming to the Storehouse, we could use your help. There are lots of key ways you can make a difference. First, you can volunteer at the Storehouse. We accept individual volunteers, families, or groups of up to 15 people. Volunteers must be 12 years or older. Second, you can host a food drive. This can be as simple as putting a box out in your lobby or even your yard to collect donations. Great items to give include peanut butter, canned tuna or chicken, chunky soups or stews, or canned fruits and vegetables. Of course, any shelf stable food will help. (Please skip items in glass containers as they break too easily when piled into bins.) To learn about hosting a food drive or volunteering at the Storehouse, call (505) 842-6491 or email info@StorehouseNM.org.
Finally, financial donations go the longest way in our fight against hunger. Every dollar donated can help us provide 5 meals. This holiday season, Sandia Area Federal Credit Union is matching gifts so your donation can go twice as far. Give today on our donate page to boost that campaign. Together we can help feed local families this holiday season and well into the new year.
Do You & Your Family Need Food?
If you and your family are skipping meals, please know we are here to help. The Storehouse is currently open Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday mornings from 9am to noon. First time clients must fill out some quick paperwork and bring their photo I.D. Clients can visit the food pantry once per month. We are located at 106 Broadway Blvd SE in downtown Albuquerque, just south of Central. We will be closed on Saturday, December 23, 2023. To view our full calendar and get more information, visit our Need Food page.