Hey There Beer Farmers,
We hope you are doing well. We here at Tractor Brewing, are doing really well. We are taking some time today, to use our platform, and the hard work of one of our employees, to shed some light on a major issue in our state: hunger. There are far too many hungry New Mexicans out there. Skyler, one of our Beertenders, recently sat down with Roadrunner Food Bank, to discuss the issue of hungry mouths in New Mexico, and what we can do to help folks in need. Skyler is part of a UNM class that has him out in the community, interviewing folks about causes he finds important to create dialogue around. Thanks for today, Skyler. We look forward to more. Enjoy, and get involved, y’all – we can all do a little, and help a lot!
When was the last time you thought to yourself, “What am I going to eat today?” For many of us, that question is followed by a three-meal plan:
Woke up late for work, so cereal and banana for breakfast, maybe a nice cup-o’-joe on the run.
Feeling healthy today, so maybe a salad from Whole Foods, a bottle of Fiji water to wash it down.
Date night is tonight, so a three-course meal and a couple of glasses of wine.
That is life for many Americans, at least those fortunate enough to answer, “What am I going to eat today?” with a list of desirable options to satisfy both palate and stomach. If this is you, I want you to take a step back and imagine yourself in another place – a parallel universe if you will. A universe in which you ask that same question and respond with: “I don’t know.” Not that you “don’t know” in the sense that you can’t decide what you want to eat next, but instead that you “don’t know” if you are going to be eating a meal at all.
Sound absurd? To 14% of United States households, it isn’t absurd – its reality.
In New Mexico, this 14% of food-insecure becomes 20%.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs defines the needs of any basic human being: physiological, safety, social, esteem and ultimately – self-actualization. Within physiological need lies food; without food an individual is unable – and often – unwilling to pursue their next level of need: safety. Therefore, one can deduce that without food, no human being can be considered “safe.” By that definition, the 14% of U.S. households that are considered “food insecure” by the USDA can also be considered unsafe. The other 86% can be considered food secure, meaning they have access “at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life.” For this fortunate majority, food and where to get it is never an issue, they never have to worry about where their next meal is going to come from. The less fortunate, on the other hand, deal with the anguish, never-yielding stress, and shame that food uncertainty inevitably brings.
According to Feeding America, 1 in 5 people are at risk of hunger in the state of New Mexico. These individuals and families are faced with choices that shouldn’t have to be made.
Pay the utilities, or buy food?
Have a home, or buy food?
Have a car to get to work, or buy food?
Receive medical care, or buy food?
Go to college, or buy food?
Look, New Mexico is a poor state; many of you reading this do not need to be reminded of that, many of us live in it and we see that reality every single day. But we are a poor state in one of the richest and most industrialized nations in the world. According to the U.S. Census, New Mexico has a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita of about $40,000 per year – not especially great considering the average GDP per capita in the United States is about $49,000 per year. Taken just a step further, if New Mexico – in theory – were a stand-alone nation, it would be considered the 40th richest country in the world. New Mexico would have a higher GDP per capita than nations like Japan, Italy, Spain, Israel, Portugal, Greece, Mexico and even Iran.
So yes, from a local perspective, New Mexico is struggling (in many areas); but from a global perspective, things are going pretty darn well here in the ol’ Land of Enchantment. So why exactly are 90,000 children in our state relying on food assistance? And why do so few people seem to care or are willing to acknowledge the problem?
In an effort to better understand this state-wide problem, I arranged to meet with Sonya Warwick, Communications Officer at Roadrunner Food Bank (RRFB). In my tour of the facility and subsequent interview with her, I became quickly aware and frankly, overwhelmed, by the vast scope of hunger in our state. I became acutely aware of one thing in particular:
There is no easy solution to hunger.
Not only are the causes of hunger vast and difficult to analyze, but the solutions are not easy to figure either. Hunger manifests in many different environments and with many different reasons. The solutions come through varied avenues, none of which are easy to identify; nor are these solutions easily combined into a result that is both tangible and desirable.
With these complexities in mind, I call upon all New Mexicans – especially those considered more fortunate – to make an effort. Become more educated on the issue, visit with experts – like Sonya at RRFB – or with those who struggle with food insecurity on a regular basis. I promise you, doing so will make you aware that hunger is not merely “over there” but right here at home.
Refuse to pretend hunger doesn’t exist.
Refuse to pretend other issues are more important.
Refuse to give into the bystander effect – YOU can make the difference.
Food insecurity and hunger have morphed into a monster that can only be tackled by a combination of federal, local, and individual efforts. We can do our part, on an individual and local level, to ensure that every man, woman and child in New Mexico is properly fed. Only with our efforts does a food insecure New Mexico become a secure New Mexico.
-Written by Tractor Brewing, Guest Blogger: Skyler Atterbom
 Alisha Coleman-Jensen, Matthew P. Rabbitt, Christian Gregory, Anita Singh. 2015. “Household Food Security in the United States in 2104”.Economic Research Report Number 194.USDA Economic Research Service. pp. 2,6.
 Roadrunner Food Bank of New Mexico. 2016. “Childhood Hunger.” http://www.rrfb.org/wp-content/upload/Childhood-Hunger.pdf. PDF.