I grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico during the 1980s and 1990s when Presidents Reagan and Clinton rolled back social welfare programs helping families through hard financial times, often harming single family households most of all. I lived in a subsidized housing community with my sister and mom, spending unsupervised afternoons and summers playing with other kids for hours going home only to gulp gallons of Kool-aid and to grab a snack and dinner. During summers we had daily picnics eating the free lunches through the summer lunch program.
During these slim times, I watched my mother make meals out of almost nothing and I ate it up. We lived on pinto beans, chile peppers, canned fruits and vegetables, potatoes and different gravy-type concoctions made from tuna and ground beef served over toast. Salads, fresh vegetables, chicken and other meats were occasional treats. A fried bologna sandwich with mustard, chile dusted potato chips, and hot peppers is still one of my favorites despite that most of my career is in the health field.
Due to my mother’s work schedule, we also spent a lot of time in the small town of Los Lunas with my aunt and grandparents. I observed food from seed to table every summer. Taking part in some of the processing like helping shell peas and putting red chile marinated pork through a sieve to extract chile pork broth for use in the masa for tamales to sell at Christmas time. I sneakily stole rich, flavorful masa right out of the massive stainless-steel bowl. I learned to can pickles, make preserves and dehydrate fruits just by watching.
I ate it all with gusto.
Food Topics I am passionate about
I write about the American Southwest, specifically New Mexico because I do live there, a frontier border state and a first stop for immigrants from Mexico. As the fifth largest state geographically in the U.S., population is sparse and mostly rural. New Mexico unintentionally competes with Mississippi for last place in topics such as “great place to raise children,” stellar educational outcomes, and percentage of people in poverty. However, its multicultural population, gorgeous landscapes make for a great place to produce films, build gigantic companies like Intel that are warmly welcomed by communities with little to no tax burden only to lay off hundreds of people when their tax-free incentives expire.
I have background in Geographic Information Systems and food supply chains in New Mexico. I also have served on advisory groups to change small school meal programs that use locally grown food. I want to see more health care institutions serve a proactive role in community food security. As a former faculty member at New Mexico State University, I participated in a study to develop a survey to help food pantries devise systems to serve healthier food items in a welcoming environment.
In some of these blogs, I will describe my community health work with SNAP-ed witnessing immigrant exploitation through agriculture and multi-level marketing supplement businesses. I also have a strong concern of supplement industry promoting a culture of being too busy to engage in wellness activities like eating well and getting some movement. The supplement industry offers products as a solution for wellness without robust research or regulation while glorifying busy-ness.