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The Community Pantry serves the people in both McKinley and Cibola Counties. These counties are two of the most impoverished counties within the state of New Mexico. 37.5% of the residents of McKinley County are considered below the poverty rate (That is approximately 27,318 people out of the 72,849) and 28.5% of the residents are below the poverty rate in Cibola County (7,708 individuals out of 27,049 county residents).
With the COVID-19 Pandemic hitting this area hard, the poverty level has intensified.
Employment data is limited to the State level, however both communities have seen an impact with regards to business closures, job furloughs, and more. Many clients served by the Community Pantry live on the outskirts of the cities of Gallup or Grants, but even more and in the rural areas of the counties. Transportation is also a huge issue in this area where the unemployment rate has averaged 8.2% in McKinley County and 7.4%, with these rates increasing daily as companies make the tough decision not to reopen because of COVID-19.
Residents in both McKinley and Cibola counties may have to drive over 95 miles for essential needs. Both counties are considered food deserts, and both counties have substantial rural areas in which people reside but have no running water or electricity. Without those two resources being available to them, hygiene and cleanliness is a hard thing to accomplish. Not having the necessary resources available has led to a dire COVID-19 situation. Residents particularly in the Navajo Nation have been impacted at an alarming rate- not only did the virus spread quickly, it has overtaken the only 26 ICU beds existing in the six hospitals in McKinley County alone. The Army Core of Engineers established a step-down field hospital at Miyamura High School in Gallup to offer beds to patients that are no longer critical but require extensive care after their COVID-19 experiences. One of the greater challenges faced by our outlying neighbors is that as the illness spreads, it becomes increasingly more dangerous to wait in line at essential businesses for necessary food items.
The Community Pantry fills an important void in the community by working on resources, building partnerships, and fostering collaborations with other organizations to obtain many of the much-needed food items to supplement the food insecurities within McKinley and Cibola counties. The Pantry has not only continued its food pickup services as a drive-through at the McKinley County and Cibola County primary warehouse locations, but the Pantry has also expanded its delivery services and other programs by uniting with organizations such as the Southwest Indian Foundation and more.
In Gallup, McKinley County, of 6,000 families currently being served, 80% of those families are Native American. In Grants, Cibola County, of 1,200 families currently being served, 40% are Native American, 60% are Hispanic. These percentages place McKinley County as the poorest county in the state of New Mexico and Cibola County as 3rd lowest. In addition, the average family of 4 people receives $649.00 in SNAP benefits. These funds are to last them 30 or 31 days. This allows $162.25 per month, per person for food, equaling out to approximately $5.00 per day, per person. This does not even cover one meal per person who eats outside of their home. Protein is a luxury for people receiving these benefits.
The obstacles to serving the residents of McKinley and Cibola counties are great- over 30-40% without running water or electricity, reduced transportation assets, no broadband or internet services, and the danger of spread mounting it means our greatest need is getting food to the people who need it most. We need to provide them with fresh, quality, proteins and other foods as often as possible because storage options may be limited, and families are large.
Donate to our mission here.