The Basic Needs Project began in 2019 and did some of the very first research on food and housing insecurity in the Southwest. We collected two years of quantitative and qualitative data at UNM in 2020 and 2021. Our reports gained the attention of the NMHED and we were asked to collaborate on a statewide assessment of basic needs security. In 2023, we conducted a survey with 27 participating institutions, including 17 two-year institutions, seven four-year institutions, and three tribal institutions.

We were also invited to apply to become a Grand Challenge Level 1 team for the 2022-23 academic year and we successfully did so.

The Leadership Team

The Grand Challenge Conveners

Dr. Sarita Cargas, D.Phil, Honors College, Human Rights

Dr. Cargas is an Associate Professor of Human Rights in the UNM Honors College. She is also a founder and the principal investigator of the Basic Needs Project (BNP).  The project allows her to apply her human rights interest to college students. Food and housing are basic human rights and are necessary in order for students to achieve a third human right, which is education. The BNP has revealed that there is a substantial portion of students in the US who are not having these three fundamental rights fulfilled. She is on a mission to call attention to this problem. Cargas earned her D.Phil. at Oxford University, has an MST in the Study of Religion from Oxford University, an MA Theology from Aquinas Institute of Theology, and MA in Psychology from Georgetown University.

Dr. Diana Gonzales-Pacheco, DCN, RDN, FAND, College of Education & Human Science

Diana Gonzales-Pacheco is an Assistant Professor in the Nutrition Program (Department of Individual, Family, and Community Education) in the UNM College of Education and Human Sciences. She received her Doctorate in Clinical Nutrition from Rutgers University. Dr. Gonzales-Pacheco is the Assistant Director of the UNM Dietetic Internship Program and a Faculty Champion in the UNM Health Science Interprofessional Education program. She is a strong advocate for promoting the role of the RDN in improving the health of communities using evidence-based approaches.

Dr. Tammy Thomas, PhD, MSW, MPH, College of Population Health

Tammy Thomas is Assistant Professor and the Director of Undergraduate Education at the College of Population Health. Dr. Thomas earned a PhD in Social Work and an MPH from the University of Pittsburgh as well as an MSW from the University of South Florida. As a Public Health Social Worker with over 30 years of experience working with communities, teaching, and conducting research, she aims to engage students with a collaborative experience-based approach to learning. She is motivated by issues of inequality and injustice and has always worked in partnership to further the voice of marginalized individuals and communities. Her recent work focuses on maternal and child health, the basic needs of students, and understanding the experiences of first-generation college students.

Professor April Land, JD, LLM, School of Law

April Land joined the UNM law faculty in 1997 after devoting most of her career to community lawyering. She teaches primarily in the community lawyering clinic, bringing 12 years of expertise to the position.

She spent five years as a staff attorney with the Neighborhood Legal Services Program in Washington, D.C., and as part of her job she testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights about the difficulty that political refugees, especially children, have in obtaining health-care benefits. Land then received a teaching fellowship at the Georgetown University Law Center's Harrison Institute for Public Law. There, she counseled tenants' associations, microenterprises and other community development organizations, along with teaching students skills and substantive areas of the law in seminars and a clinic

Other Team Leaders

Dr. Katie Coakley, College of Population Health

Ana Andzic Tomlinson, Honors College

Leslie Byatt, Project Management Consultant

Dr. Amy Neel, Department of Speech & Hearing Sciences

Adrian Allocca, Honors College & Pre-med Student

UNM BNP in the News

May 2023, Survey finds New Mexico college students facing food, housing insecurity