A unique program in Las Cruces is providing hot meals to those in need — and giving a much-needed boost for locally owned and operated restaurants.
Nusenda Credit Union today announced it is presenting a $10,000 operating grant to support the City of Las Cruces’ Community Meal program, which is being administered by area nonprofit Families and Youth, Inc. (FYI). FYI, which has provided services to the community since 1979, is contracted by the City of Las Cruces to get vouchers for hot meals into the hands of those most in need.
The program was created by the city during the height of the pandemic, when public health orders shuttered restaurants, causing job loss and financial hardship. Under the initiative, the city’s most in-need citizens, including seniors, people experiencing homelessness, and low-income families, receive vouchers valued at $10 to purchase hot meals from participating locally owned restaurants. Since its inception, 22 restaurants have participated in the program, and 27,000 meal vouchers have been distributed. The program is funded through coronavirus aid packages approved by the Las Cruces City Council.
“Nusenda’s assistance will sponsor FYI as they manage the distribution of approximately 15,000 additional vouchers for hot, restaurant-prepared meals to our area’s most vulnerable residents,” said City of Las Cruces Housing and Neighborhood Services Manager Natalie Green. “This funding to area restaurants has been helpful during this current challenging economic climate.”
“As an impact agency, the goal of FYI — and with this program in particular — is to be an ongoing community connector,” said Renee Boudreau, FYI division director. “This infusion of extra money will help connect community members to hot meals from local restaurants, many of whom have been here for years and are culinary favorites. We are thankful for Nusenda’s participation in making this program successful.”
“Many of the communities we serve have been hit hard this past year. This support for FYI helps ensure Las Cruces residents have food on the table — and enables locally owned restaurants to keep their doors open and workers employed,” said Nusenda President/CEO Joe Christian. “We are looking forward to opening our first branch later this year to serve the many Nusenda members in the Las Cruces community and welcoming new members and partners from the area.”
“This was an unbudgeted program that FYI took on because it was the right thing to do — not the easy thing to do. Our contribution means they won’t have to cut other types of programs to meet this emergent need,” said Sara Keller, Nusenda’s vice president of community engagement. “The food voucher program was particularly compelling to us because of its collaborative nature — it’s the private, public, and social sector coming together. It’s this kind of innovation and partnership we’re proud to be a part of.”
In addition to its scheduled annual giving, Nusenda and Nusenda Foundation provided $211,600 in COVID-19 relief grants and in-kind support to more than 50 community organizations and nonprofits statewide in 2020; last year, across the board, Nusenda, Nusenda Foundation and Credit Union employees contributed almost $1.3 million to the communities they serve.
Additional assistance was also provided to members statewide: deferrals on more than 10,000 loan payments, eliminating the negative impact of past-due payments on members’ credit histories, and waiving more than $3.4 million in fees. The Credit Union also participated in the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, issuing loans totaling more than $52 million to local businesses and keeping more than 6,800 New Mexicans employed and on the payroll.