Statewide Study

“I’m hungry.”

“Without having eaten a decent meal in the past few days, I failed one of my final exams and couldn't show up to take another because I also could not afford gas.”

“Being a father to small children makes me feel unworthy not having enough money to ensure healthy meals for my family even though I have a full time job and attend school full time. The rising prices for utilities, housing, and food make it almost impossible to sustain life.”

“My rent is behind so sometimes I get overwhelmed and think it would be best if I stop school and find another full time job, and just work two full time jobs.”

“I'm barely able to complete one class a semester because I'm working two jobs and still can't make ends meet. This has affected my completion rate and has disqualified me from scholarships. I'm working toward my BA degree to increase earning potential but I can only do so one class at a time and sometimes I have to repeat.” 

In 2023, the UNM Basic Needs Project carried out the first statewide study of basic needs insecurity in higher education to include faculty, staff, and students. Over 15,000 people across New Mexico participated in the study, with a 20.5% response rate for faculty and staff and an 11.6% response rate for students. The 27 participating institutions included 17 two-year institutions, seven four-year institutions, and three tribal institutions. 

The study assessed food insecurity, housing insecurity, and homelessness. Survey questions were designed to assess and include:

  • Demographics
  • USDA 18-Item Household Food Security Survey
  • Housing security and homelessness measures (McKinney-Vento definition)
  • Health insurance, transportation, social connectedness
  • Mental health (GAD-7 and PHQ-9)
  • Open-ended questions

Some answers from our open-ended questions were included at the top of this page. Data was separated into the four USDA categories of food security: very low, low, marginal, and high. The USDA defines these categories as follows:

  • High food security: no reported indications of food-access problems or limitations.
  • Marginal food security: one or two reported indications—typically of anxiety over food sufficiency or shortage of food in the house. Little or no indication of changes in diets or food intake.
  • Low food security: reports of reduced quality, variety, or desirability of diet. Little or no indication of reduced food intake (old label=Food insecurity without hunger).
  • Very low food security: reports of multiple indications of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake (old label=Food insecurity with hunger).

The results were disturbing for every category of participant. However, we found that needs insecurity was significantly higher for individuals of certain ethnicities/races (especially Black and Native American respondents), students of 25-44 years, and gender variant and LGBTQ+ individuals. A full report of our findings is to come. For now, look at our Tableau page to interact with our data.



We initially presented our data at the New Mexico College Basic Needs Data Sharing & Solutions Summit on May 5, 2023, at the UNM Albuquerque Campus. Watch footage from the event below or a recap by Dr. Douglas Ziedonis, the UNM Health Sciences Executive Vice President.