THE SENIOR PROGRAM
While the number of seniors served by the Rural Food Initiative in the colonias in Doña Ana County averages 28%, the number of seniors served at the Las Cruces Pantry has been much lower: an average of 10%, or just over one-third of those in rural areas. As the State of New Mexico qualifies over 1,700 low income seniors for its Commodity Supplemental Food Program in Doña Ana County, it became clear to us that many seniors were not accessing the services provided by Casa de Peregrinos at the central Las Cruces Pantry.
Anecdotal data indicates that the Las Cruces Pantry for Casa de Peregrinos, located in the Community of Hope, can provide serious transportation challenges to seniors: if they are arriving by bus, the stop is nearly two full blocks away from the pantry. This walk may be difficult for seniors and can be exacerbated by weather and heavy groceries.
In Las Cruces, five senior centers are run by the City of Las Cruces. They serve a total of about 1,600 seniors, providing coordination with other services, meals, and social activities. In May of 2016, CdP approached the city’s Senior Program about the possibility of distributing emergency food to clients at their centers.
As Casa de Peregrinos already has expertise in the implementation of Mobile Food Pantries–having conducted 13 Mobile Food Pantries in the colonias of Dona Ana County for almost five years–the Senior Centers recognized this as an opportunity to expand services and bring food to needy seniors. We launched our first Mobile Food Pantry at the Munson Senior Center in September of 2016 and brought the program to all five by December 2016.
This venture brings a monthly distribution of nutritious supplemental groceries to eligible seniors in a venue where they have already transportation arranged.