Going to Bed Hungry

Magdalena, N.M. -- The village of Magdalena, New Mexico, is poor. Main street is gravel road. Half of its residents live below the poverty line.

The local food pantry and thrift shop have been a blessing to for Magdalena’s poor for years, but this year things have changed.

“The need has grown each year and it’s become really apparent in the last year,” said Kelley Barnitz, who oversees the food pantry, ”We sign up three or four new people every day.”

The new people coming in this year are not the endemically poor. They’re people like Anna Lear, a middle class divorced mother of two children, who, in the past, used to donate extra food to the pantry.

“The price of food has made it harder to buy what I need for myself and my kids so I come here to kinda fill in the gap,” Lear said.

And in rural areas like Magdalena, it’s not only the cost of food. Higher gas prices compound the problem. In the only food store in Magdalena, a gallon of milk costs $6. The nearest town, where milk is half the price, is 30 miles away.

The increased costs have had an effect on Lear.

“I’ve lost 40 pounds in the last year,” Lear said, “Part of that has been intentional and part of it has been realizing that to stretch the food out, I can eat less because I’m grown, but my kids can’t.”

To deal with the increased costs, people in Magdalena work together to come up with creative solutions for inexpensive food. Lear is using her garden to grow her own food, and for the first time, freeze it for the winter. She is also teaming up with her neighbors to buy in bulk.

“We’re going to buy in on a pig, a full grown pig,” Lear said, “None of us could afford or eat a whole pig by ourselves, so it’s cheaper than a supermarket, let alone free range organic.”

By Travis Fox  |  October 17, 2008; 3:57 AM ET  | Category:  In-Depth
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