#OurUNM holds symbolic Die-In to give students a voice

OurUNM Die In Group 5

The #OurUNM Student movement held a symbolic Die-In in front of Zimmerman Library on Wednesday, May 7th. The event was designed to allow students to express how the system has failed them. Students outlined each others silhouette with chalk and then placed a message inside to represent their symbolic death. The Die-In last for almost 2 hours and hundreds of students either witnessed or participated in it.

The messages covered a wide variety of concerns and many of the onlookers were inspired to ask questions. They did not know that so many systematic problems existed. No matter how many people actually chalked, the reality is that the event sparked conversations that may have never been brought up to some students.

OurUNM Die In IgnoredOurUNM Die In law student ratio

Some of the messages directly addressed racial inequality and bias on campus. One student wrote that they are the only black student in their class and they feel like they are ignored. It is difficult for a young person to have nobody else in a class that looks like them. Another student pointed out that there are only 4 African-American students in the UNM School of Law (out of 330). It makes me wonder how we can have a fair system of justice if the only law school in the entire state of New Mexico only has 4 African-American students.

OurUNM Die In HomelessOurUNM Die In FoodOurUNM Die In housing

One student pointed out that he was homeless while another was concerned the they did not have enough money to buy food. Last year there were over 400 homeless students at CNM and many more at UNM. These students do not have a permanent place to live while they attempt to better their lives. That is unacceptable. To make matters worse, full time students are not eligible for many public benefits. Students cannot get SNAP (food stamps) or commodities.

OurUNM Die in Police Brutality

Students discussed mounting debt and sky high tuition rates. Others were worried about the Bridge and Lottery Scholarship, poor academic advising due to a 800:1 student to advisor ratio, and police brutality. The list goes on and on. It is clear that the system is broken. Students do not know who to turn to for help. They are hungry for change and will force the system to react.

New Mexico’s HSD lied to New Mexicans about welfare statistics


The New Mexico Human Services Department (HSD) has constantly used misleading statistics when describing the increase in TANF (welfare) recipients in New Mexico. In 2011, they used these misleading statistics to convince the public that it was necessary to implement the largest cut to the program in history. They authorized a 15% reduction in the monthly benefit. HSD explained that they needed to cut the program in order to save money for FY 2011-2012, but they conviniently kept the cuts in place until present day. The startling fact is that they claimed a 45% increase in participation at the time, but the truth is that participation was at its lowest rate in New Mexico history when they made that claim.

It is time for New Mexican’s to know the truth. The welfare program was designed to help families and allow children to grow up to be productive members of society. The welfare program gave single parents the ability to be at home to raise their children instead of working multiple jobs. The TANF program eliminated that help and transferred the money to substandard childcare programs. Is it any wonder why the cycle of poverty continues? Children need a parent to guide them, not state-funded childcare providers.

The U.S. House Ways and Means Committee describes the original intent of welfare as :

” TANF was created in the 1996 welfare reform law (P.L. 104-193). It replaced the New Deal program of Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), originally called Aid to Dependent Children (ADC), that provided monthly cash welfare benefits to needy families with children. ADC was an outgrowth of “mothers pensions,” State-level programs originating in the Progressive era that provided fatherless families economic support to “release from the wage-earning role the person whose natural function is to give her children the physical and affectionate guardianship necessary not alone to keep them from falling into social misfortune, but more affirmatively to rear them into citizens capable of contributing to society.” (Committee on Economic Security, p. 36, 1935).

In 1996 the U.S. Government overhauled the existing Welfare programs to create a new program called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The program was designed to reduce the caseload of welfare families and to reduce dependance on welfare. In reality, it was Corporate America’s attempt to increase their labor pool.

The U.S. House Ways and Means Committee explains:

“The savings from the welfare caseload decline have been used by States for a wide range of services and noncash benefits. A large share of TANF’s “non welfare” spending goes to either child care (as discussed above) or the child welfare system to help children who have been subjected to, or are at-risk of, abuse or neglect. Other “non-welfare” benefits and services cover the gamut of activities often discussed in the debate to combat or alleviate poverty among families with children: supplementing earnings through State add-ons to the Earned Income Tax Credit to assist working poor families; providing early childhood education programs for pre-schoolers and after-school programs for youth; supporting postsecondary education for needy parents; supporting job retention and advancement programs; and helping noncustodial parents.”


On September 30, 2010, the NM Human Services Department (HSD) published HSD Register volume 33, No 35Cash Assistance Benefit Determination PROPOSED. The register announced a public hearing, to be held on October 29, 2010, to discuss a proposed regulatory amendment which would allow HSD to adopt a new calculation for monthly TANF benefits. The announcement states that “TANF is reaching maximum expenditures due to budgetary constraints.”

On October 26, 2010, HSD issued Interdepartmental Memorandum ISD GI 10-62, Active Proposed Regulations. In this memorandum HSD states:

“A combination of factors, including significant growth in TANF participation, has led the Department into a situation this year of facing a shortfall in the TANF cash assistance budget. This has forced the Department into making some tough decisions in order to be able to continue TANF cash benefits.”

The Memorandum goes on to explain:

“To help meet its projected obligations for state fiscal year 2011 and 2012, the Department is proposing a new calculation methodology to determine the monthly benefit of TANF, Education Works and State Funded Alien cash assistance programs.”

On December 16, 2010, HSD published the Final regulations in HSD Register Vol 33 No 57 Cash Assistance Reduction with Rules. The register states that nobody from the public attended the hearing and no written comments were received regarding the proposed amendments. HSD updated NMAC 8.102.620.9 (C) to include the 15% TANF benefit reduction and set an effective date of January 1, 2011.


A May 2012 Legislative Finance Committee Brief noted that New Mexico received a federal block grant of $120.2 million for TANF in FY 12. The brief goes on to mention:

“Although New Mexico reduced cash benefits by 15% in FY 11, cash benefits have remained a high state priority given the approximately 17,871 cases (43,863 individuals). That current caseload, though declining, remains almost 45% higher than before the recession.”

What the LFC Brief fails to note is which year they chose as the base for the statistical claim. HSD may have used FY 07 which was the lowest caseload in any fiscal year since the creation of TANF in 1996. Although FY 07 seems the most likely as the date they are using, the numbers do not match. A more accurate comparison would have been FY 2005. In FY 2005, there were 17, 566 cases which is almost identical if population growth is factored into the equation. To compare, in FY 2005, roughly 2.3% of New Mexico’s population participated in TANF. In FY 2011, 2.1% of the population participated in TANF. Therefore, the base year is very important when making such statements.

Currently, there are 33,486 individuals participating in TANF.9 The year before the recession (FY 08), there were 35,526 individuals participating. In FY 2007, there were roughly 33,438 participants. The participation rates are: FY 07 1.68%; FY 08 1.70%; FY 13 1.60%. Thus, we are currently at the lowest participation rate of any year since TANF was created. Below is a chart of total individuals participating in TANF in the month of June since 1997:

1997 78,404 2006 40,111
1998 76,695 2007 33,438
1999 76,589 2008 35,526
2000 66,381 2009 44,044
2001 55,940 2010 49,849
2002 45,923 2011 47,627
2003 42,539 2012 41,470
2004 43,736 2013 33,486
2005 42,994    

 The numbers in the chart indicate that there is no possible way that the 45% number quoted in the LFC Brief could have been correct. That calculation would suggest that there were only 24,125 individuals on TANF at some point in time.  The fact is, New Mexico has never had a single month that low since TANF was created. The lowest caseload for a month was 33,334 in July 2007.  The current caseload for June 2013 is the third lowest total of all-time and the lowest participation rate ever. In June 2008, New Mexico spent $140.28 per person on TANF. In June 2012, New Mexico spent $119.14 per person.


The New Mexico HSD used misleading statistics to convince the public that welfare was going out of control. The TANF Benefit Adjustment was supposed to assist HSD “meet its projected obligations for state fiscal year 2011 and 2012.” The Department used “significant growth in TANF participation” as the only specific reason for the budget shortfall. New Mexico is currently in FY 2013 and the amendment is still included in NMAC 8.102.620.9. Participation rates are at an all-time low and the block grant has remained at its pre-recession level. HSD has not held a public hearing to extend the amendment beyond the specifically requested FY 11 and FY 12.


New Mexico’s Hungry ask “Please, NM, can we have some more?”

In Charles Dickens’s classic novel, Oliver Twist, a nine year old Oliver famously asks, “Please, sir, I want some more.” Oliver is described as nine-year-old orphan residing in the parish workhouse where the boys are “issued three meals of thin gruel a day, with an onion twice a week, and half a roll on Sundays.”The master he is requesting the food from “was a fat, healthy man.” In reaction to Oliver’s audacity Dickens writes:

The board were sitting in solemn conclave, when Mr. Bumble rushed into the room in great excitement, and addressing the gentleman in the high chair, said,

‘Mr. Limbkins, I beg your pardon, sir! Oliver Twist has asked for more!’

There was a general start. Horror was depicted on every countenance.

‘For MORE!’ said Mr. Limbkins. ‘Compose yourself, Bumble, and answer me distinctly. Do I understand that he asked for more, after he had eaten the supper allotted by the dietary?’

‘He did, sir,’ replied Bumble.

It is amazing how prophetic this amazing tale may have been. Today, we have hungry children and adults all over the great and powerful United States. These vulnerable and suffering citizens are offered minimal assistance by the fat and the rich, yet they are condemned if they ask for more. “Don’t we already give them enough?” or “You don’t qualify for more help” are common phrases spit from the mouth’s of the masters. We live in a country of abundance, yet so many people live with so little. Food should be a basic human right and nobody should ever go hungry.

Hunger is a major issue facing many American’s today and the issue is magnified in New Mexico. Recently New Mexico was named the second worst state in the United States for food security overall and the worst in child food security. A large portion of the population lacks in the basic necessities of nutrition on a daily basis.

Some people may argue that the government provides programs to hungry individuals, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP/Food Stamps). The program does reach a majority of individuals who are eligible for the benefits, but there are still many individuals, including children, who do not receive the benefit because they have either not applied or are income ineligible. The benefit provided by the program is also inadequate to provide a family with 3 nutritional meals per day for an entire month.

Food Insecurity

Food insecurity refers to the USDA’s measure of lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members and limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods. Food insecurity is not necessarily a constant and can change from time to time. Many individuals who live in a food insecure household may have to decide whether or not to pay their bills or purchase adequate food.

Feeding America recently published the Map the Meal Gap 2013, in which the organization estimated the food insecurity rates at state, country, and congressional district levels. The organization used food insecurity indicators that included: unemployment rates, median income, poverty rates, homeownership rates, percent of the population that is African American, and percent of the population that is Hispanic.2The data is combined to develop a coefficient which can then be applied to each state, county, and congressional district based on data for those specific areas.

New Mexico Overall Data

The Map the Meal Gap 2013 statistics were based on data collected in 2011. The overall average food insecurity rate for the United States was 16.4%. The results of the data place New Mexico as the second highest percentage of food insecure individuals in the country at 20.1%. The only state with a higher food insecurity rate was Mississippi at 21.4%.

The majority of individuals that are food insecure are eligible for some type of SNAP benefits, but unfortunately there are food insecure individuals that are ineligible for assistance.  In the state of New Mexico, 39% of food insecure individuals are above the Other SNAP threshold of 185% of the federal poverty level.

Even if an individual is eligible for SNAP, the program does not provide enough support to feed a family for one month. According to the data, the average cost of a meal in New Mexico is $2.48. A family of 3 that is eligible for the maximum SNAP benefit will receive $526 per month. When using the data from Map the Meal Gap 2013, a family of 3 would need approximately $669 per month to have adequate and nutritional food. Therefore, the SNAP recipient is receiving $143 less per month than they need. That shortfall amounts to 57.6 total missed meals; 19 missed meals per person in a family of 3; and a total of 6.5 days without food per family of 3.

Food Insecurity by NM County

Food insecurity is more prevalent in some counties in New Mexico than others. There is a 14.8% difference between the most insecure county and the least. The ten county’s with the highest percentage of food insecurity are: Luna 25.4%; McKinley 21.2%; Guadalupe 19.4%; Torrance 18.7%; Cibola 18.2%; Mora 18.2%; Dona Ana 18.1%; Roosevelt 18.1%; San Miguel 18.1%; and Taos 17.7%.

Food Insecurity and SNAP Participation

Overall SNAP participation in the state of New Mexico is 21.2% of the total population while the percentage of food insecurity for the state is 20.1%. There are 442,570 SNAP recipients in the New Mexico as of May 2013. The data collected in the Map the Meal Gap 2013 states that there are an estimated 417,780 food insecure individuals in New Mexico.  Therefore, there are roughly 25,000 more SNAP recipients than food insecure individuals.

 The SNAP participation rate is higher than the food insecurity rate in all but two of the top ten food insecure counties in New Mexico. The chart below identifies the data:


NM County Food Insecurity % 2011 SNAP Participation % May 2013


















Dona Ana






San Miguel






  • Highlighted sections indicate lower SNAP participation than food insecurity

There are six other counties that have a lower SNAP participation rate than food insecurity rate:

Los Alamos












Santa Fe






The food insecurity rate in Los Alamos County is 10.6% while only 2.7% of the county receives SNAP benefits. That means that 7.9% of the food insecure individuals are not receiving food assistance through the SNAP program. Data indicates that there was an estimated 1910 food insecure individuals in Los Alamos County and 72% of them were income ineligible for SNAP. Over 1375 hungry individuals in that county alone cannot use a public benefit because they are ineligible. In Harding County, the food insecurity rate is 13.6% while the SNAP participation rate is 5.2%. Therefore, 8.4% of food insecure individuals are not receiving assistance through the SNAP program.

Between May 2012 and May 2013, The SNAP participation rate decreased in a few counties that were already underserving the food insecure population. The participation rate decreased in: Union       (-45.9%); Harding (-28.8%); Mora (20.4%); and Otero (-1.0%).

 Child Food Insecurity

New Mexico was ranked as the worst state for child food insecurity. There is an estimated 156,930 (30.6%) food insecure children in the state of New Mexico. The state that previously held the number one spot is Mississippi which currently has a 27.4% food insecurity rate for children. The National average is 22.4%.

That means that roughly 1 in 3 children in the state of New Mexico lives in a food insecure environment. What is more startling is that 22% of the food insecure children are not eligible for SNAP. Even though here are 197,054 New Mexico children receiving SNAP benefits as of May 2013, there are 34,525 children that lack access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy life but are income ineligible for assistance. Therefore, there are more income ineligible hungry children than the entire city populations of Espanola, Taos, and Las Vegas combined.


The food insecurity rate in New Mexico is an alarmingly high percentage. The public assistance programs put into place to address the issue are inadequate and do not provide enough money for a family to eat proper, nutritious meals. Although the SNAP participation rate is greater than the food insecurity rate, there are some obvious problems in the system.

There are many counties in New Mexico that do not provide enough assistance to the food insecure population. The reasons for the lack of assistance are not clear and could involve many factors. Many hungry children are ignored in the current system. All children should be eligible for assistance regardless of their parent’s income.