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New Mexico Has the Hungriest Kids in the U.S.

New Mexico Has the Hungriest Kids in the U.S.

Out of 50 states plus Washington, D.C., New Mexico ranked first as the state with the most children in food-insecure households

Feeding America, an organization that supplies food to those in need through food banks and food rescues, ranked every U.S. state according to the number of children living in food-insecure households. New Mexico took first place as the state with the hungriest kids in America, according to The Huffington Post.

In New Mexico, 156,930 children are living in food-insecure households, making that 30.6 percent of children that have "uncertain access to adequate food." Washington, D.C. took a close second with 30 percent and Arizona ranked third with 29.9 percent. North Dakota has the lowest number of hungry children in its state with 10.2 percent.

"It’s shocking to learn that a third of our children aren’t able to access enough food to eat on a regular basis,” said Melody Wattenbarger, president and CEO of Roadrunner Food Bank of New Mexico.

According to Feeding America, 17 out of every 50 people in the U.S. who are food insecure are children.


New Mexico History Timeline

Colonized by Spain, the land that is now New Mexico became US territory as part of the Gadsen Purchase in 1853, though New Mexico did not become a U.S. state until 1912.

16th Century New Mexico History Timeline

1536 - Cabeza de Vaca, Estevan the Moor and two others reach Culiacdn, Mexico, after possibly crossing what is now southern New Mexico, and begin rumors of the Seven Cities of Cibola.

1539 - Fray Marcos de Niza and Estevan lead expedition to find Cibola and reach the Zuni village of Hawikuh, where Estevan is killed.

1540-42 - Francisco Vasquez de Coronado explores area from Gulf of California to present-day Kansas, discovers the Grand Canyon.

1580-81 - Fray Agustin Rodriguez leads expedition to New Mexico four members of the party killed by Indians.

1582-83 - Fray Bernadino Beltran and Fray Antonio de Espejo lead expedition to New Mexico to search for survivors of the ill-fated Rodriguez mission.

1598 - Juan de Onate establishes the first Spanish capital of San Juan de los Caballeros at the Tewa village of Ohke north of present-day Espanola

17th Century New Mexico History Timeline

1600 - San Gabriel, second capital of New Mexico, is founded at the confluence of the Rio Grande and the Chama River.

  • Mass desertion of San Gabriel by colonists
  • New recruits front Spain and Mexico sent to reinforce colony.

1605 - Onate expedition to the Colorado River visits El Morro, leaves message on Inscription Rock.

  • Onate removed as governor and sent to Mexico City to be tried for mistreatment of the Indians and abuse of power.
  • Decision made by Spanish Crown to continue settlement of New Mexico as a royal province.
  • Gov. Pedro de Peralta establishes a new capital at Santa Fe.
  • Construction begins on the Palace of the Governors.
  • Gaspar de Villagra publishes epic history on the founding of New Mexico, the first book printed about any area in the modern United States.

1626 - Spanish Inquisition established in New Mexico.

1641 - Gov. Luis de Rosas assassinated by colonists during conflict between the church and state.

1680 -August 10 - Pueblo Indian Revolt Spanish survivors flee to El Paso del Norte.

Late 1600's - Navajos, Apaches, lies, and Comanches begin raids against Pueblo Indians.

  • September 14, 1692, Don Diegode Vargas proclaimed a formal act of possession and recolonizes Santa Fe.
  • Spanish civilization returns to New Mexico.

1695 - Santa Cruz de la Cahada (Canada) founded.

1696 - Second Pueblo Revolt efforts thwarted by Gov. De Vargas.

18th Century New Mexico History Timeline

1706 - Villa de Albuquerque founded.

1743 - French trappers reach Santa Fe and begin limited trade with the Spanish.

1776 - Franciscan friars Dominguez and Escalante explore route from out New Mexico to California.

1786 - Gov. Juan Bautista de Anza makes peace with the Comanches.

1793 - First school text printed in New Mexico by Padre Antonio Jose Martinez of Taos.

19th Century New Mexico History Timeline

  • Zebulon Pike leads first Anglo American expedition into New Mexico.
  • Publishes account of way of life in New Mexico upon return to US

1828 - First major gold discovery in western U. S. made in Ortiz Mountains south of Santa Fe.

1837 - Chimayo Revolt against Mexican taxation leads to the assassination of Gov. Albino Perez and top officials.

  • Texas soldiers invade New Mexico and claim all land east of the Rio Grande.
  • Efforts thwarted by Gov. Manuel Armijo.
  • Mexican-American War begins.
  • Stephen Watts Kearny annexes New Mexico to the United States.

1848 - Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ends Mexican-American War.

1850 - September 9 - New Mexico (which included present-day Arizona, southern Colorado, southern Utah, and southern Nevada) is designated a territory but denied statehood.

1851 - Bishop Jean Baptiste Lamy arrives in New Mexico and establishes schools, hospitals and orphanages throughout the territory

1854 - The Gadsden Purchase front Mexico adds 45,000 square miles to the territory

  • July - Confederates invade New Mexico front Texas.
  • The Confederate Territory of Arizona is declared with the capital at La Mesilla.
  • Territory of Colorado is created. New Mexico loses extreme northern-most section to the new territory

1862 - February 12 - Battles of Velarde de and Glorieta Pass fought, ends confederate occupation of New Mexico.

1863-68 - Known as the "Long Walk," Navajos and Apaches are relocated to Bosque Redondo: finally allowed to return to their homelands after thousands die of disease and starvation.

  • The railroad arrives in New Mexico, opening full-scale trade and migration from the east and midwest.
  • Lincoln County War erupts in southeast New Mexico

1881 - Billy the Kid shot by Sheriff Pat Garrett in Fort Sumner N.M.

1886 - Geronimo surrenders Indian hostilities cease in the Southwest.

1898 - First movie filmed in New Mexico, Indian Day School by Thomas A. Edison.

20th Century New Mexico History Timeline

1906 - People of New Mexico and Arizona vote on issue of joint statehood, New Mexico voting in favor and Arizona against.

1911 - January 21 -New Mexico Constitution drafted in preparation for statehood.

1912 - January 6 - New Mexico admitted to the Union as the 47th state.

1916 - March 16 - Pancho Villa raids Columbus, N.M.

1920 - Adoption of the l9th Amendment gives women the right to vote.

1922 - Secretary of State Soledad Chacon and Superintendent of Public Instruction Isabel Eckles elected first women to hold statewide office.

1923-24 - Oil is discovered on the Navajo Reservation.

  • Great Depression.
  • Federal New Deal funds provide employment for many and causes numerous public buildings to be constructed.
  • New Mexico soldiers serving in the 200th Coast Artillery during World War II are captured by the Japanese and forced to endure the Bataan Death March.
  • Navajo "Codetalkers" are influential in helping end the war.
  • Secret atomic laboratories established at Los Alamos.

1945 - World's first atomic bomb detonated at Trinity Site in southern New Mexico after its development at Los Alamos.

1947 - UFO allegedly crashes between Roswell and Corona, believers claim US government institutes massive coverup of the incident.

1948 - Native Americans will the right to vote in state elections.

195O - Uranium discovered near Grants.

1957 - Buddy Holly records Peggy Sue at Norman Petty Studio in Clovis.

1966 - New state capitol, the "Roundhouse," is dedicated.

1969 - Proposed new state constitution is rejected by voters.

1982 - Space shuttle Columbia lands at White Sands Space Harbor oil Holloman Air Force Base near Alamogordo.

1992 - New Mexico observes Columbus Quincentenary, welcomes Cristobal Colon XX, direct descendent of Christopher Columbus.

1994 - North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) increased trade with Mexico.

1998 - New Mexico celebrates its cuartocentenario, 400th anniversary commemorating its 1598 founding by Juan de Onate.

21st Century New Mexico History Timeline

2000 - Valles Caldera National Preserve established

2005 - 11.65% of state's employment was derived directly or indirectly from military spending

2008 - New Mexico had highest poverty rate in US

2009 - Death penalty abolished

  • Runway opened at world's first spaceport in New Mexico
  • Governor Richardson announced he would not pardon Billy the Kid

2011 - Wildfire forced officials to close Los Alamos National Labratory, voluntary evacuation issued for residents


Relief

New Mexico has some of the flattest land as well as some of the most rugged mountains in the country. Some portions of the state are rich in pine forests, meadows, and fish-laden mountain streams, while other areas are devoid of any water bodies, and even cacti struggle to survive. The eastern third of the state is an extension of the Great Plains that includes the Llano Estacado (“Staked Plain”), so named because of its abundance of spiky agaves (century plants). The Rocky Mountains extend into the north-central part of the state. Southwest of the Rockies is part of the Basin and Range Province, consisting of mountain ranges running in a north-south direction interspersed with valleys that are indispensable to agriculture and grazing. Northwestern New Mexico, part of the Colorado Plateau, is characterized by unique volcanic formations that are a result of past lava flows. This region also contains many plains and short mountain ranges.

The average elevation ranges from 5,000 to 8,000 feet (1,500 to 2,500 metres) above sea level in the northwest to less than 4,000 feet (1,250 metres) in the southeast. More than four-fifths of the state is higher than 4,000 feet above sea level. The highest mountain peaks, Wheeler Peak (13,161 feet [4,011 metres]) and Truchas Peak (13,103 feet [3,994 metres]), are in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the north-central part of the state. The lowest elevation, 2,842 feet (866 metres), lies along Red Bluff Lake in the southeastern corner of the state.

Two of New Mexico’s most unique physical features are the caverns near Carlsbad, which are among the most spectacular natural rock formations in the world, and the extensive gypsum sand dunes at White Sands National Monument in south-central New Mexico, which were created by wind and water erosion.


2019 Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)

COVID-19 is a highly infectious and fast-spreading virus. Symptoms and their effects can range from mild to severe and in certain cases result in extreme health complications and death. Positive cases have been identified in communities across New Mexico. State health officials continue to test, process, monitor and track instances of the virus — and the state of New Mexico has taken proactive, aggressive public health actions to mitigate the spread of the disease.

Additional Resources


New Mexico again leads nation in child hunger

According to the just-released Map the Meal Gap 2019 report from Feeding America, 24.1% of kids age 18 and younger in New Mexico – that’s one of every four children – are at risk of childhood hunger and food insecurity.

The 2018 Map the Meal Gap also had New Mexico as dead last, and the 2017 report had the state ranked 49th.

This year’s 49th place holder is Arkansas with 23.6% of at-risk food insecure kids, then Louisiana at 23% and Mississippi at 22.9%.

In contrast, the states with the fewest percentage of kids who are at risk of food insecurity are North Dakota, ranked first with 9.8% of kids, followed by Massachusetts at 11.7%, New Hampshire with 12.3% and Minnesota with 12.6%.

The Map the Meal Gap also showed that 324,000 people of all ages in the state, or 15.8% of the entire population, are at risk of hunger.

The worst five counties in New Mexico with the highest percentage of child hunger, according to the report are: McKinley, with 33.5% Luna, 33.4% Cibola and Catron, each with 30.4% and Sierra, 27.8%.

Feeding America is the largest hunger-relief organization in the United States, coordinating a network of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs. Together they provide meals to more than 46 million people each year. Roadrunner Food Bank is part of the Feeding America network.

Roadrunner Food Bank spokeswoman, Sonya Warwick, said food insecurity is generally understood as the inability of individuals or families to know where a portion of their food will come from at any given time.

“In some instances, that food insecurity results from adults in a family having unreliable seasonal jobs, or hourly workers suddenly finding that their hours were reduced, people who are unemployed or underemployed, those facing homelessness, domestic violence or health issues,” Warwick said.

Many people fall into the gray area, “where they’re still very poor, but make just over what might qualify them for federal food assistance programs, and that’s when Road Runner and statewide affiliated food partners can step in to help them,” Warwick said.

Of course the biggest factor in a state’s child hunger and food insecurity is the number of children who live in poverty. New Mexico is near the top of this list also.

Sharon Kayne, spokeswoman for New Mexico Voices for Children, said 27% of kids in our state live in poverty, ranking us 49th on this list, tied with Mississippi, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau and compiled by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Only Louisiana fares worse, ranked in 50th place with 28% of kids living in poverty.

Data for the Map the Meal Gap report came from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and food price data and analysis provided by Nielsen.


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.


These Counties Have the Highest Rates of Food Insecurity Among Children

Nearly 1 in 5 children in America lived in food-insecure households, federal data shows.

These Counties Have the Highest Rates of Food Insecurity Among Children

(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Children are more likely to struggle with food insecurity than the overall U.S. population, and those in states along the southern border and in rural communities appear especially vulnerable to hunger, a new report shows.

Overall food-insecurity rates range from 7% in North Dakota to 19% in Mississippi in 2017, but the range was higher among children – from 10% of children in North Dakota to 24% in New Mexico, according to the latest annual Map the Meal Gap report, published May 1 by hunger relief organization Feeding America.

Nationwide, 17% of children lived in food-insecure households in 2017, according to federal estimates, and previous research indicates food-insecure children may be at greater risk of developmental delays, anxiety and poor academic performance.

“Food insecurity has the potential to be harmful to individuals of any age, but it can be especially devastating to children,” the Feeding America report says. “By better understanding variations in local need, communities can develop more targeted strategies to reach people struggling with hunger.”

These 10 counties saw the highest estimated rates of child food insecurity in 2017, according to Feeding America.

10. Apache County, Arizona

Child food-insecurity rate: 34.2%
No. of food-insecure children: 6,950

In Apache County, which includes parts of multiple Native American reservations, more than 17,000 people overall were food-insecure in 2017.

U.S. News’ Healthiest Communities data also shows close to three times as many people have lacked access to a large grocery store in Apache County than in the U.S. overall. Diabetes and obesity also have been higher in the county than in the state or country on average.

Children are more likely to struggle with food insecurity than the overall U.S. population, and those in states along the southern border and in rural communities appear especially vulnerable to hunger, a new report shows.

Overall food-insecurity rates range from 7% in North Dakota to 19% in Mississippi in 2017, but the range was higher among children – from 10% of children in North Dakota to 24% in New Mexico, according to the latest annual Map the Meal Gap report, published May 1 by hunger relief organization Feeding America.

Nationwide, 17% of children lived in food-insecure households in 2017, according to federal estimates, and previous research indicates food-insecure children may be at greater risk of developmental delays, anxiety and poor academic performance.

“Food insecurity has the potential to be harmful to individuals of any age, but it can be especially devastating to children,” the Feeding America report says. “By better understanding variations in local need, communities can develop more targeted strategies to reach people struggling with hunger.”

These 10 counties saw the highest estimated rates of child food insecurity in 2017, according to Feeding America.

10. Apache County, Arizona

Child food-insecurity rate: 34.2%
No. of food-insecure children: 6,950

In Apache County, which includes parts of multiple Native American reservations, more than 17,000 people overall were food-insecure in 2017.

U.S. News’ Healthiest Communities data also shows close to three times as many people have lacked access to a large grocery store in Apache County than in the U.S. overall. Diabetes and obesity also have been higher in the county than in the state or country on average.

9. Greene County, Alabama

Child food-insecurity rate: 34.4%
No. of food-insecure children: 690

About 1 in 5 food-insecure children in Greene County lived in households with incomes above 185% of the federal poverty line, meaning they may not have qualified for public nutrition assistance.

U.S. News data shows that 32.8% of residents lacked access to a large grocery store, and 15.6% had diabetes.

8. Brooks County, Texas

Child food-insecurity rate: 34.8%
No. of food-insecure children: 690

More than a third of Brooks County’s roughly 7,100 residents live in poverty, but 31% of food-insecure children lived in households that may not have qualified for public nutrition benefits in 2017. The average cost of a meal in the county was $2.55 in 2017, below the national average of $3.02.

7. Claiborne County, Mississippi

Child food-insecurity rate: 34.8%
No. of food-insecure children: 690

In 2017, 31% of Claiborne County’s food-insecure children lived in households that may not have qualified for nutrition assistance.

The county scores poorly in measures of community health, U.S. News data shows, and has had one of the highest adult obesity rates in the state.

6. Zavala County, Texas

Child food-insecurity rate: 35%
No. of food-insecure children: 1,280

In Zavala County, the overall food-insecurity rate was 14.3%, just 1 percentage point above the national rate across counties. Yet a much greater share of children were food-insecure, and about 19% lived in households with incomes that may have disqualified them from receiving public food aid.

Still, U.S. News data shows obesity and diabetes were slightly below state and national levels in Zavala County, which is home to roughly 12,000 people and situated near the U.S.-Mexico border.

5. Oglala Lakota County, South Dakota

Child food-insecurity rate: 35.8%
No. of food-insecure children: 1,910

Oglala Lakota County is located within the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and partially contains Badlands National Park. Among both adults and children, an estimated 3,860 people were food insecure in 2017, and the average cost of a meal was $3.08.

4. Jefferson County, Mississippi

Child food-insecurity rate: 35.9%
No. of food-insecure children: 670

In 2017, Jefferson County saw the highest food-insecurity rate among residents overall, with 36% of residents at risk of hunger. The county of about 7,100 people is 85% black, and roughly 1 in 3 residents live in poverty.

3. Kusilvak Census Area, Alaska

Child food-insecurity rate: 38.1%
No. of food-insecure children: 1,230

In the Kusilvak Census Area, the annual food budget shortfall in the county – taken from the amount of money food-insecure people report needing to meet their food needs – was about $1.56 million in 2017, Feeding America estimates show. The average cost per meal was $4.10.

2. Issaquena County, Mississippi

Child food-insecurity rate: 38.3%
No. of food-insecure children: 70

Issaquena County, home to about 1,300 people and situated in the Mississippi Delta, saw an overall food-insecurity rate of 32.1% in 2017. The county’s annual food budget shortfall was $221,000 – the smallest shortfall on this list.

1. East Carroll Parish, Louisiana

Child food-insecurity rate: 39.6%
No. of food-insecure children: 530

Across the parish, 2,420 people were food-insecure in 2017, and a quarter of food-insecure children lived in households that may not have qualified for public nutrition assistance.

East Carroll Parish is one of the unhealthiest communities in America, U.S. News data shows, with particularly high rates of obesity and diabetes. Nearly 4 in 10 adults reported being in poor or fair health, and the parish's life expectancy is roughly seven years below the national median.

Counties With the Highest Child Food-Insecurity Rates

1. East Carroll Parish, Louisiana
2. Issaquena County, Mississippi
3. Kusilvak Census Area, Alaska
4. Jefferson County, Mississippi
5. Oglala Lakota County, South Dakota
6. Zavala County, Texas
7. Claiborne County, Mississippi
8. Brooks County, Texas
9. Greene County, Alabama
10. Apache County, Arizona


Man at New Mexico compound trained kids for school shooting, prosecutor says

The father of a missing Georgia boy was training children at a New Mexico compound to commit school shootings, prosecutors said in court documents obtained Wednesday.

The documents say Siraj Ibn Wahhaj was conducting weapons training with assault rifles at the compound near the Colorado border where 11 hungry children were found in filthy conditions.

Prosecutor Timothy Hasson filed the documents while asking that Wahhaj be held without bail after he was arrested last week with four other adults facing child abuse charges.

Prosecutors did not bring up the school shooting accusation in court on Wednesday during an initial appearance by the abuse suspects.

Authorities say the remains of a boy also were found at the compound, but they have not been positively identified by medical examiners.

The child, Abdul-ghani Wahhaj, went missing in December in Jonesboro, Ga., near Atlanta.

Authorities say his father had told the boy’s mother that he wanted to perform an exorcism on the child. He later said he was taking the child to a park and didn’t return.

For months, neighbors worried about the squalid compound built along a remote New Mexico plain, saying they took their concerns to authorities months before sheriff’s officials raided the encampment, described as a small camping trailer in the ground.

Authorities said during the raid Friday that they had found the father armed with multiple firearms, including an assault rifle. They also said they believed there was a shooting range on the site.

The group arrived in Amalia in December, with enough money to buy groceries and construction supplies, according to Tyler Anderson, a 41-year-old auto mechanic who lives nearby.

He said he helped the newcomers install solar panels after they arrived but eventually stopped visiting.

Anderson said he met both of the men in the group, but never the women, who authorities have said are the mothers of the 11 children, ages 1 to 15.

Anderson did not recall seeing the Georgia boy who was missing. But he said some of the smaller children from the compound turned up to play with children at neighboring properties after the group first arrived.

“We just figured they were doing what we were doing, getting a piece of land and getting off the grid,” Anderson said .

As the months passed, however, they stopped seeing the smaller children playing in the area. They also stopped hearing guns fired off at a shooting range on the property, he said.

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3 Perfect Days Experience Native American Culture

DAY ONE: From Albuquerque, head west to tour Acoma Pueblo&rsquos Sky City. After a morning in the ancient village, explore Grants, where the New Mexico Mining Museum re-creates a uranium mine. Spend the afternoon outdoors, hiking around El Morro National Monument or El Malpais National Monument. On the way you may wish to travel the Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway, a route that once connected ancient villages.

DAY TWO: Strike out for Chaco Culture National Historical Park to hike among the creations of Ancestral Puebloans. In Gallup, cruise Route 66, view the town&rsquos murals, or browse for a great piece of art&mdashwhether traditional pottery or abstract paintings. From here, you can continue on to spend a day touring the Middle Village of Zuni Pueblo or continue on to Farmington.

DAY THREE: Explore the tri-cities of Farmington, Aztec, and Bloomfield. In Aztec, tour the buildings at Salmon Ruins and Heritage Park, one of the largest Chaco Culture outliers, or hike to one or more of 300 natural arches and bridges. In Bloomfield, bet on live horseracing at SunRay Park & Casino.

3 Perfect Days The North Central Mountains & The Rio Grande Gorge

DAY ONE: Begin in Santa Fe, home of the Georgia O&rsquoKeeffe Museum. Drive to Los Alamos, home of the Manhattan Project and ancient cliff dwellings at Bandelier National Monument. Cruise to Española, known for its Hispanic arts and low-rider car culture. Observe living cultural traditions at one of the region&rsquos Eight Northern Pueblos&mdashif your trip coincides, be sure to observe the dances at a feast day.

DAY TWO: Take a scenic drive north along the 56-mile High Road to Taos exploring the art galleries and historic villages along this route. Pilgrimage to Santuario de Chimayó, known for its healing dirt. In Taos, dip into the Río Grande Gorge on a rafting trip through the state&rsquos grandest canyon, summit Wheeler Peak, the state&rsquos tallest, or head for the hills in Taos Ski Valley.

DAY THREE: Head northwest to Chama, a popular destination with sportsmen, and then south through the stunning desert scenery of Abiquiú, site of the Ghost Ranch Education and Retreat Center.

3 Perfect Days Explore Where the Rockies Meet the Plains

DAY ONE: Head east along portions of Route 66, where even if you aren&rsquot driving a classic, you can see one at the Route 66 Auto Museum in Santa Rosa. Dive in at the Blue Hole before continuing on to more vintage charm in Tucumcari.

DAY TWO: Head north to tour Victorian homes in Las Vegas, and explore the remains of a Native American Pueblo at Pecos National Historic Park.

DAY THREE: Cruise through Cimarrón Canyon State Park stopping off for a hike before up to Ratón, home of Sugarite Canyon State Park. Your last stop is across the plains at Clayton Lake State Park, where there&rsquos an extensive dinosaur footprint trackway.

3 Perfect Days The Heart of New Mexico

DAY ONE: Start in Albuquerque, where you can see the city&rsquos top attractions, then explore Corrales, a pastoral oasis. Follow El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, a historic trading route also known as The Royal Road, to Bernalillo, home of the Coronado Historic Site&rsquos muraled kivas.

DAY TWO: Drive past red rocks on the scenic Jemez Mountain Trail to the natural springs and river-adjacent hiking trails of the Jemez Mountains. En route, stop in the Walatowa Visitor Center to learn more about Jemez Pueblo and Jemez Historic Site, which preserves a 500-year old village and San José de los Jemez church. Between Jemez Springs and Los Alamos, explore the awe-inspiring meadows of the Valles Caldera National Preserve.

DAY THREE: Strike out along the Abo Pass Trail Scenic Byway to visit Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, a trio of sites with remnants of mission churches and pueblos. Circling back to Albuquerque, stop in at Isleta Pueblo and its sleek casino and resort hotel.

3 Perfect Days Discover the Headwaters of the Gila & the Rio Grande Valley

DAY ONE: Start in Socorro, where, if your schedule jibes, you can catch a chamber music concert from the New Mexico Tech Performing Arts Series. Tour the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge before grabbing lunch at Buckhorn Tavern, in San Antonio. From here, two options beckon. You can take a scenic drive west along U.S. 60 to Magdalena and Pie Town, or continue south on I-25 to Truth or Consequences, where you soak in a hot springs bath, tour Spaceport America, or explore with Ted Turner Expeditions.

DAY TWO: Continuing south to Las Cruces, spend a day on the golf course, or explore the town&rsquos historical side in Mesilla and the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum. More outdoor destinations await near Deming: City of Rocks State Park is 30 minutes north, and Rockhound State Park, where you&rsquore encouraged to take home a souvenir, is 20 minutes south.

DAY THREE: Take in Silver City&rsquos colorful art scene or continue on to the Gila National Forest, where you can extend your stay with a backcountry trip.

3 Perfect Days Billy the Kid & Extraterrestrials

DAY ONE: Visiting this vast region in a few days is a feat, but get started in Alamogordo, where you can tick off White Sands National Monument from your must-see list. While in town, check out the New Mexico Museum of Space History to discover the state&rsquos outsized contributions to the space race. Head to Ruidoso to explore the mountain retreat town and nearby Lincoln Historic Site.

DAY TWO: Head to Roswell to dip your toes in the turquoise waters of Bottomless Lakes State Park (and contemplate the mysteries at the International UFO Museum and Research Center. Head through Artesia, where you can catch a concert at the Ocotillo Performing Arts Center, or visit Hobbs to play the award-winning Rockwind Community Links and catch a performance by the Southwest Symphony.

DAY THREE: You can head north, to tour the sister towns of Portales and Clovis, or south to Carlsbad to experience Carlsbad Caverns National Park


When schools serve breakfast after the morning bell rings, it means a lot more kids get a healthy start to their day.

Millions of kids rely on school for regular meals. But in the summer, those meals disappear. No Kid Hungry is helping community leaders with the funding and know-how they need to start summer meals sites, as well as advocating for needed changes to the national summer meals program.

Currently, the national summer meals programs reaches just 16 percent of the children who need help when school is out of session.


New Mexico&aposs Community Garden Revolution

THE SLOPE OF LAND WAS ANONYMOUS, the kind of arid topography easily overlooked in most towns. Maybe a tumbleweed, or any weed for that matter, posted up along the silty stretch of alluvium, but not much else resided there. I daresay nobody ever gave it much thought—how water runoff from an elevated parking lot caused the land to continuously erode, because as it did, it seemed to also fade from most residents’ consciousness. There was even a hole in my own memory. What did it look like? I kept thinking, though I know I had seen it more times than I can count. That crescent-shaped land, wedged between Española’s City Hall, Valdez Park, and the Española Public Library, was, as Beata Tsosie-Pe༚ says, �rren and abused.”

As far back as 2011, Tsosie-Pe༚, program coordinator of the Environmental Health and Justice Program at Tewa Women United, in Española, began envisioning a new life for that desolate stretch. A spoken word poet, local dancer, community organizer, and doula, Tsosie-Pe༚ saw the hill one day while she was parked outside the library during a rainstorm. The city often resorted to contracting a few bulldozers to replace the depleted dirt when the parking-lot flash floods swept through. But it wasn’t a long-term, or even effective, solution. “Water,” Tsosie-Pe༚ says, “had become a liability and not a resource.”

Inspired by a permaculture course offered by famed Santa Clara Pueblo sculptor Roxanne Swentzell through Flowering Tree Permaculture Institute, Tsosie-Pe༚ saw potential for life where most didn’t see much of anything. “Initially, I wanted to plant 30 trees with harvested rainwater,” she says. In time that vision grew and, since breaking ground in 2016, the Española Healing Foods Oasis has bloomed into an ecologically diverse habitat𠅊n edible herbal landscape with more than 200 native plant and tree species, watered in part with the runoff that once chuted past it from the parking lot above.

Gente from the Española Valley and beyond—cholos, Native metalheads, university students, activists, artists, and elders𠅌ome to plant, weed, and harvest. They come on weekend community planting days as well as by appointment during the week. Volunteers also spread mulch, install handmade ceramic vessels, ponder new hybrid sprouts (there was an amaranth crossbreed this year), and line up like worker ants to move rocks into terraces that naturally filter water𠅏ormations that mimic the catchment systems Tewa people have long used in dryland farming.

Volunteers have donated 3,000 hours of labor to the garden. The bees come, too, pollinating flowers, shrubs, and trees in bloom spring through fall.

Above: Stephanie Olivas from Southwest Organizing Project.

Prayers and intentions have been offered to the Healing Foods Oasis in Tewa, K’iche’, Mohawk, Spanish, Portuguese, and English, making it one of the most blessed𠅊nd intersectional—plots in El Norte.

Micro-gardening—growing nutrient-dense foods in tiny urban spaces—is trending in cities across the country. The Healing Foods Oasis and other gardens, like Project Feed the Hood, in Albuquerque, share some of the same tenets. But they also stand apart from those efforts in their origins and philosophy. Born out of circumstances of environmental and social injustice, these free community gardens have become curative spaces that celebrate cultural resilience and outdoor activities while championing the food and seed sovereignty movement that has become integral to New Mexicans statewide.

PROJECT FEED THE HOOD, a community garden initiative of the Southwest Organizing Project, started out in much the same way as the Healing Foods Oasis—with a blighted tract in a forgotten pocket of Albuquerque. Founded in 1980, SWOP began rallying communities in the South Valley and the International District, near the state fairgrounds (where the nonprofit planted its first community garden), to register people to vote, advocate for better housing, and seek groundwater testing for contaminants around Kirtland Air Force Base. They also coordinated the Recuerda a César Chávez Campaign, which culminated in the City of Albuquerque’s renaming a major street after the labor activist.

In SWOP’s early days of gardening, “guerrilla gardeners” sought out those nuggets of land lost to urban decay, says Stephanie Olivas, a young and energetic SWOP organizer and UNM senior double-majoring in biology and Chicana and Chicano studies who unspools stories of SWOP forebears like family oral histories. “They gardened anywhere and everywhere they could,” she says. In 2009, SWOP came to an agreement with the city for a long-term lease of a 6,800-square-foot plot in the International District, between Ross Avenue and Wellesley Drive Southeast. SWOP organizers had to clean up old tires and roll 35 wheelbarrows of glass from the derelict landscape before planting could begin.

In 2018, Project Feed the Hood’s Ilsa and Rey Garduño Community Garden (named after City Councilor Rey Garduño) celebrated its 10th growing season. Because it’s city property, the fruits and veggies are always free. “Kids come through and hang out,” Olivas says. Some take bags with them. SWOP organizers knock on doors to invite new gardeners. Calls go out on Facebook to convene volunteers to till the soil and plant. Knowledge is shared at weekend workshops. Sometimes participation is high, other times low. But the tomatoes, chiles, carrots, chard, melons, onions, watermelons, strawberries, peas, sunflowers, corn, beans, and squash regularly sprout, odes of varied greenery to one of the most diverse and storied barrios in town.

Above: Heirloom Macia&aposs Pepper seeds. 

Freed slaves settled the area during the era of Reconstruction. Eubank Boulevard, for instance, is named after the largest African American landholder in the city, Eugene L. Eubank. Later, Route 66 took shape, along with the travel culture of the motor lodge, vestiges of which are still visible when driving through. Today Africans, Asians, and Central Americans live in the dense housing complexes, built at the peak of Kirtland’s productivity post–World War II, along the major thoroughfares that cut through the district. Some are older refugees (those who came in the first wave from Vietnam) and others more recent (salvadoreños who came after their country’s civil war). On these most densely populated streets, 27 languages are spoken.

Back in the late aughts, when Project Feed the Hood began, the nearest grocery store was more than two miles away, making the district—then known as the War Zone, for its high rate of gang violence𠅊 true food desert. “Project Feed the Hood saw the need for fresh fruits and vegetables in the community,” says Olivas. Planting in a community that lacked accessibility to healthy food options was a natural outgrowth of SWOP’s overall mission to “seek justice where we live, work, and play.”

The garden was also a deliberate effort to bring new life into an already frail urban ecosystem. From 1953 to 2006, Kirtland Air Force Base’s network of underground pipelines leaked jet fuel into the soil, which eventually made its way into the aquifer and the surrounding area’s drinking water. State environmental officials estimated the plume to be as big as 24 million gallons (the largest toxic spill in U.S. history), and plans for remediation have been slow. The spill disproportionately impacted the diverse communities of color who lived closest to the fallout. It was textbook environmental racism, says Olivas.

Project Feed the Hood’s yellow sweet corn has become a beacon of resilience, a sign of nature’s creative capacity to adapt to new circumstances. “We decided to call it the ‘Urban Warrior,’” Olivas says of the plant. As the SWOP tale goes, Miguel Santiestevan, a legendary dryland farmer from Taos, found some corn in a relative’s despensa (pantry). No one really knew how old it was—probably more than five decades𠅋ut after a few seasons of growing it in his own plot, Santiestevan passed it on to his urban cousins to the south, where it has thrived under hot city conditions. SWOP has multiplied its community gardens and planted Urban Warrior corn at 10 local elementary schools, such as Dolores Gonzalez, where workers have added green spaces and a gardening curriculum while also organizing the Albuquerque Public Schools Annual Gardening Summit, a conference for students, teachers, and administrators to learn about and support community gardens.

Above: More heirloom corn varieties. 

“We still plant the Urban Warrior today, and it yields these massive elotes [corncobs]. Now we talk about that corn everywhere we go. It represents us,” Olivas says. “We share and grow it every year so that it adapts to changes in the environment and has that in its genetics. It’s more important now than ever to have a living seed library” to maintain biodiversity against the corporate boom in patenting, and thus controlling, seeds.

Food and seed sovereignty, Olivas says, “is having the power to govern ourselves, our resources—land, water, and seeds—the way we see fit.” It is a practice, she says, of “agroecolog໚, of growing food with our natural environment,” a way that 𠇏olks across the state who are holding on to traditional ways of water and land use are keeping alive.”

EIGHTY-FIVE MILES TO THE NORTH, the Healing Foods Oasis overlooks an expansive eastward-facing vista. It began with a partnership between the City of Española Radicle, a landscape architecture firm, in Santa Fe and Tewa Women United, an intertribal collective founded in 1989 that is focused on the health and well-being of Pueblo women in northern New Mexico and of Mother Earth. “I think that a lot of work we do at Tewa Women United directly addresses the historical and generational trauma that our people have faced through different forces of history, colonization, and changes in borders,” says Tsosie-Pe༚. 𠇎ven though a lot of that violence has been passed on, a lot of our resilience has passed on, too.”

One of the greatest challenges building the Healing Foods Oasis was making use of the parking lot runoff on such an extreme slope. Radicle founder Christie Green advised on how to build up the soil, by adding organic matter, like compost, mulch, and cover crops, so that the land was no longer prone to erosion. That meant water could make its way into the roots of the native and adaptive plant species that Tsosie-Pe༚, Green, and all the volunteers seeded.

Now the Healing Foods Oasis is open to the public and available for the whole valley to enjoy, a place to get centered and find solace, walking the paths that zigzag down the hill. It is a place for grandmothers to watch their grandchildren play in the park while sitting on bancos installed under the shade of fruit trees. But it isn’t lush. Rather, the stems and leaves of plants like saltbush, Indian paintbrush, Navajo tea, lamb’s-quarters, dandelion, and milkweed hover close to the ground. Most are pale green, with tiny bursts of purple, crimson, and ocher blossoms, seen only by squatting and getting up close. Tsosie-Pe༚ uncovers a hidden trove of tiny red wolfberries (also known as goji berries) along a stepped pathway. We pick a few ripe ones, give them a quick look, and pop them in our mouths. They are sweeter than I expected, and just a bit tart.

Above: Heirloom Macia&aposs Pepper seeds. 

The garden sits squarely within Tewa’s four sacred mountains, of which Truchas Peak is but one. The Jemez Mountains, to the west, hem in this world. Los Alamos National Laboratory has occupied the lands that lie in that direction, once belonging to San Ildefonso Pueblo, since 1940. These days it’s simply called “the lab,” and thousands of people from the valley drive up “the hill” for work every day. Prior to the lab’s arrival on the Pajarito Plateau, the majority of northern New Mexicans, including Pueblo people, were farmers.

Indigenous peoples throughout the Southwest had been developing distinct food cultures for 1,500 years. Yet with the incursion of a money economy, relocation programs, and, later, the lab, their assimilation took place on all fronts, including eroded traditional foodways. For Native nations, “the first tool of colonization,” Tsosie-Pe༚ says, “was to disconnect us from our food and impose forced diets through commodities. And where there’s widespread poverty, you’re forced to accept.”

The lab hastened that shift and, in the process, created a system of economic dependency and extreme environmental imbalance for the tribal and Hispanic communities living downwind, according to Tsosie-Pe༚ and Tewa Women United. There are now deep concerns about a toxic plume of hexavalent chromium (a contaminant made infamous elsewhere by Erin Brockovich), which is spreading into tribal and nontribal lands and seeping into the aquifer. For decades, Native and non-Native activists have decried the storage of nuclear waste in sacred sites and correlated the rise in various cancers to radiation in the environment.

“We have lived here for thousands of years. Our role is to be protectors of this place, the land, the water, the animals, and all of nature,” Tsosie-Pe༚ says. Tewa Women United is a member of Communities for Clean Water, a coalition formed to keep water safe for drinking, agriculture, sacred ceremonies, and a sustainable future. Their environmental advocacy is therefore tightly intertwined with the restoration of traditional ecological knowledge through gardening and seed saving, of which the Healing Foods Oasis is an integral part. Seeds, Tsosie-Pe༚ and others believe, are the cornerstones of a resilient food system.

The creation of the garden, moreover, helps all who visit to reconnect “to the plants, water, air, and all the elements,” she says. It also unites everyone in a common cause, 𠇌reating networks that are based in our strengths and not our deficits. Because when it comes to struggles against oppression, we have to come as a whole people who have control over our bodies, our health, and our wellness.”

Above: Beata Tsosie-Pe༚ of Tewa Women United.

WALKING THROUGH THE SPACE among piles of stones arranged like an Avanyu spirit (a horned serpent symbolic of rain, lightning, and bodies of water), I couldn’t help but think that an untrained eye might mistake some of the greenery here for pesky desert weeds. They look washed out and overgrown. Many, however, are actually hardy, drought-tolerant varietals indigenous to the land. Among the thicket are plants that can be dried for teas that will cleanse the kidneys, liver, and other organs. I harvested tiny stems with yellow blossoms for cota tea, an upper-respiratory remedy. 𠇎ven our plants have gone through colonization—plants, grass, and ornamental shrubs from outside of New Mexico are a norm,” says Tsosie-Pe༚. 𠇊ll of these so-called weeds are the most nutritional foods we could be eating. They hold the solution for nutritional deficiency and hunger.”

Some time ago, the term “superweed” came into common parlance, referring to plants that have become resistant to the herbicide Roundup. One apparent scourge was pigweed, or wild amaranth. Pre-contact, the Aztecs had cultivated it, as had other indigenous peoples across the Americas. Because the plant had spiritual and monetary value, the Spanish saw it as a threat and banned it from markets for centuries. “It’s a super-protein,” Tsosie-Pe༚ says as she shakes the chaff from a fuchsia bloom to reveal tiny seeds that look like mini-versions of quinoa.

The amaranth now firmly rooted on Española’s west side traveled from Central America in the hands of a few guatemalteco stewards in 2016. Four representatives from Qachuu Aloom, a nonprofit organization in the town of Rabinal, returned the final day of September to harvest and process the seeds, also demonstrating a few ways amaranth can be eaten: popped like popcorn, as flour in baked goods, and mixed with honey in a treat called alegr໚. At the same time, they tell stories of how saving and sowing these seeds are acts of resistance. In some places in Guatemala, cultivating heirloom varieties has become illegal. Planting them across the Americas, and here in Española, is an act of solidarity—of seeding the future with the past. “These seeds are our ancestors,” they say.

After prayers in K’iche’ and Tewa, the 40 people in attendance cut and carried bundles of amaranth into the park just below the Healing Foods Oasis, where we began rubbing blooms between our hands, the first of several steps of winnowing. Later, we lifted buckets of amaranth waist-high and poured them into the wind with tarps laid out on the ground. The seeds spilled out, sailing through the air and catching the light of the sun before falling to the ground as the chaff drifted away.

CONNECT WITH YOUR FOOD
MoGro Mobile Grocery delivers weekly shares of fruits and vegetables from local farmers to locations in Santa Fe, Albuquerque, and northern New Mexico. Produce shares start at $5.

Check out seeds that you can plant at Santa Fe and Albuquerque Public Libraries. You can even attend weekly and monthly gardening workshops.

Swap seeds at the annual Ówîngeh Táh Pueblos y Semillas Gathering and Seed Exchange, hosted in the spring by the New Mexico Acequia Association, Honor Our Pueblo Existence (HOPE), and the New Mexico Food and Seed Sovereignty Alliance.

GET YOUR HANDS DIRTY
Tewa Women United invites volunteers to join the Healing Food Oasis movement. They also seek in-kind donations.

Check out Southwest Organizing Project’s Food Justice calendar for community gardening events in Albuquerque. Learn the art of dryland farming at the Flowering Tree Permaculture Institute, in Santa Clara Pueblo.

Get your backyard garden started with soil tonic and microbes from Radicle architecture firm, or consult with founder Christie Green.


Why would children get this and not adults?

Children may be at greater risk for this syndrome because their immune systems are not fully developed, Dr. Kernie said. But there are no clues yet as to why some children get sick and not others. Many of the children have been previously healthy. And the syndrome doesn’t seem to run in families, but Dr. Kernie’s hospital and others are doing genetic testing to see if there is a predisposition or genetic reason one child becomes very sick while siblings seem unscathed.


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