December 26th, 1999

By Rene Romo Journal Southern Bureau

Under the Shadow of Hunger

the year, those meals amount to more than four million pounds of food.
    * Last fiscal year the state Department of Human Services distributed 1.8 million pounds of federal food commodities to 99,000 people around New Mexico through The Emergency Food Assistance Program. In that period, the state Department of Health provided food to about 20,000 seniors and low-income mothers.
    * In August, the state Department of Human Services had a food-stamp case load of 64,771, serving about 175,000 individuals. The state spends about $12 million each month in food stamp aid to the needy, who receive an average benefit of $184 a month for groceries.
    * The Roadrunner Food Bank, the state's largest private supplier of donated food, distributes about 2,500 tons of food a year -- enough for everyone in the state to eat a bit more than four meals apiece. Roadrunner estimates it helps feed about 150,000 people a year, many of whom might also seek government help.
    * Senior centers throughout the state provide meals to about 40,000 clients a year, and meals are delivered to about 10,000 home-bound elderly residents each year.
    "What we are finding is that for many people, this is their one full meal of the day," said Gene Varela, deputy director of the state Agency