Food Assistance

Access to adequate food and nutrition is a basic human right. One in seven New Mexicans, and one in five children in New Mexico experience food insecurity. State and federally funded programs exist to help families purchase food. However, the amount of food stamp dollars available is not enough to meet a family’s basic monthly food budget and excludes many New Mexicans based on immigration status. NMCLP works with community based partners to eliminate systemic barriers to food and nutrition programs and advocates for expansion of those programs to decrease food insecurity.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) provides financial assistance to purchase food. NMCLP and partners have worked for decades to increase access to SNAP and eliminate unnecessary barriers through litigation in the Debra-Hatten Gonzales lawsuit and through advocacy with the state of New Mexico. NMCLP and our partners successfully advocated for the state to abandon plans to limit unemployed adults to three months of SNAP and convinced the state to increase the minimum monthly SNAP benefit for older adults and those people living with disabilities as well as an increase in SNAP for over 50,000 New Mexicans through the provision of energy assistance, also known as the “heat and eat policy.”

Roadrunner Food Bank provides application assistance for benefits offered through the New Mexico Human Services Department, including SNAP. Trained staff and volunteers provide application assistance, and can answer questions about the application process.  

Call toll-free at 844.684.6268 or email

TANF/Cash Assistance for Families with Children

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families is New Mexico’s only source of cash assistance for low-income families with children that helps pay for housing, utilities, and clothing costs. However, the program is in great need of reforms. TANF provides such a small amount of assistance, just $447 a month for a family of three, that families cannot get by with this support. The benefit amount and income level to qualify have not increased since the program was created in 1996. Families must be living at or below 24% of the federal poverty level to receive benefits. 

Despite high levels of child poverty in New Mexico, very few children receive TANF. In 2011, New Mexico instituted harsh sanctions, cutting benefits to families who face the highest barriers to employment and who should have been exempt from program work requirements due to reasons like disability and domestic violence. NMCLP and partners advocate to reverse these harmful requirements and institute a family support model that provides a level of assistance equal to the cost of living and programming to increase opportunity rather than punish families. 

Cash Assistance for Adults with Disabilities

Everyone should be able to meet their basic needs, especially people living with disabilities. General Assistance is a state-funded program that provides $245 in monthly cash assistance for individuals living with disabilities who have very low incomes. There is no federally supported cash assistance program for adults with very low incomes without minor children other than those with disabilities serious enough to qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI).  Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to obtain SSI without legal assistance. SSI provides triple the amount of assistance than the state-funded GA, without legal assistance. NMCLP and community partners are advocating for the expansion of a New Mexico Human Services Department pilot program, launched in January of 2022, to assist more New Mexicans living with disabilities to win their SSI claims.

Immigrant Access to Food/Cash Assistance

Immigrants are part of the cultural, civic, and economic fabric of New Mexico. One in ten New Mexicans is an immigrant, and one in nine have immigrant parents. Immigrant families provide essential and critical contributions to our economy, labor force, and tax base yet  face unfair barriers to programs that help families with basic needs. 

The Center has provided advocacy for over a decade to improve the public benefits program for immigrant families. We have expertise on the complex rules that determine whether immigrants are eligible for each program, and we provide information to help community members and advocates navigate the system. Please call us if you have any questions about your eligibility for a program below.


Many immigrants qualify for public benefits in New Mexico

Important Rights for Immigrant Families Seeking Benefits

  • If you do not qualify, you can apply and receive benefits for other family members.
  • Immigration status and social security are only required for family members that will receive benefits. For example, children may be able to receive benefits even if their parents do not qualify for the program.
  • Social Security Numbers may not be required to get approved.
  • You have a right to prove household income in different ways and to get assistance if needed.
  • You have a right to get application help in the language you speak. Resource on Language Access Rights:
  • Getting benefits will not trigger a public charge test for many immigrants.

Eliminating Barriers to Public Benefits: Hatten-Gonzales v. Sec. of HSD

Public benefits programs provide important resources to people experiencing financial hardship, but families in New Mexico have faced systemic barriers to getting that help, including long delays, incorrect decisions and unnecessary requests for paperwork. NMCLP and co-counsel represent the class of New Mexicans who apply for or receive food and medical assistance benefits through the New Mexico Human Services Department. The court entered a comprehensive consent decree in 1998 that requires HSD to eliminate systemic barriers to assistance and to comply with federal law in administering the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Medicaid.

NMCLP joined the case in 2005 and has successfully won court orders directing HSD to make SNAP and Medicaid more accessible for New Mexico families, including:

  • Requiring the state to timely process food and medical assistance applications, eliminating a backlog of tens of thousands of unprocessed cases. 
  • Eliminating unnecessary and burdensome paperwork requirements, especially those impacting immigrant families.
  • Stopping repeated attempts by the state to limit unemployed adults to three months of food assistance in a three year period.
  • Eliminating the automatic denial or termination of benefits so that cases were no longer denied or closed until a caseworker reviewed them.
  • Ending long standing illegal practice, including falsification of income information by state workers that caused qualified families to go without emergency food assistance.
  • Rewriting all client notices to be individualized, accurate, and easy to read (at a sixth grade reading level). These notices are sent to over one million clients each year.
  • Rewriting all of its administrative regulations for Medicaid and SNAP to bring them into compliance with federal law. 
  • Changes to the state’s phone line, notices and forms so that families who speak languages other than English and Spanish have meaningful access to services.