Fifty-three percent of urban Native Americans in Santa Fe experience food insecurity issues, according to a 2017 health impact assessment.
"That means rationing foods because of the high cost of food, or having to eat less," Caren Gala tells SFR. "The Santa Fe Indian Center has been wanting to address this issue for a while."
Gala is the executive director of the center, which has started a new partnership with MoGro, a nonprofit mobile grocery project that aims to provide fresh and affordable produce to communities in and around Santa Fe and Albuquerque. Every Wednesday, the SFIC hands out $5 coupons to purchase food at one of MoGro's pickup locations—one of which is just across the street from the center, at the Santa Fe Indian Hospital.
Food can be reserved online for pickup. In addition to produce, MoGro sells a variety of grocery items such as bread, whole-wheat flour and cheese.
"Depending on the size of the family, that determines how many coupons they'll get," says Gala. "Depending on your income level, for $5 you can go in and get a big bag of produce. And they're really good vegetables—I mean, they have corn, lettuce—they rotate the food that is available. Sometimes it's unique foods, like last week I know they had black turnips."
MoGro's prices for a basic produce bag are on a sliding scale ranging from $5 to $25. Paying at the higher end allows someone else to pay at the lower end, and, according to MoGro project manager Josh Norman, the top price is still comparable to what you'd spend at a store like Whole Foods.
"It's enough produce for a family of four for about a week or more," Norman explains. "Of course, different people use different levels of produce. We hear from some families that it's enough for two weeks."
MoGro, created by Rick and Beth Schnieders in 2010, was originally intended to address various health issues affecting Native American people in New Mexico by reaching communities with limited access to healthy and affordable foods. Thirty-five percent of Native people in New Mexico are obese, compared to 24 percent of the general population, and the group has the highest levels of diabetes-related deaths.
"It's the reason MoGro was started, and we've made a couple of big shifts over the years which have made the place it's had in our mission shift around, but it's always been there," says Norman. "That's one reason the Santa Fe Indian Hospital is such an important site. At this point, that's our main way of reaching folks that live in the surrounding pueblos, rather than getting distribution directly in the pueblos, which ended up being really costly. So that's our focus right now. We do really want to branch back out, but this feels like a good kind of nexus."
Gala says the Santa Fe Indian Center hopes to continue the coupon program, which is supported by a grant from the New Mexico Department of Health through spring of next year. MoGro sells at the Santa Fe Indian Hospital (1700 Cerrillos Road, 946-9282) from noon-3 pm on Wednesdays. The Santa Fe Indian Center (1420 Cerrillos Road, 660-4210) is open 10 am-1 pm on weekdays.