New Mexico is ranked 13th for food insecurity in a recent United States Department of Agriculture Food Research and Action Guide report. The New Mexico Collaborative to End Hunger estimates that one in five children are unsure about where their next meal will come from -- if it comes at all.
This summer, Santa Fe Public Schools, working with the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department, is helping out by offering free lunch and breakfast at about a dozen school sites from early June through late July.
"The program is a way to feed kids for free so they can stay healthy throughout the summer," said Betsy Torres, the summer food-service coordinator for the district. "The district wants its kids healthy when they come back to school."
The eligibility requirements are pretty wide open, she said: "Kids have to be between 1 and 18. You can walk into any school even if don't go to that school." Adults can take part in the program, too, paying $1.25 for breakfast and $3 for lunch.
This is the 10th year of the program. Torres said the program usually serves more than 1,500 children, but she's expecting at least 2,000 this year. The district is trying the program out in some nonschool sites as well, setting up outdoor community tables at the Riverside de Santa Fe Mobile Home Park and Cottonwood Village Mobile Home Park.
"It's getting harder and harder for everyone in the community during these tough [economic] times," Torres said. "We can help a family out by saving them money on two meals a day. And they know they are getting a well-balanced meal."
The CYFD connection helps the district leverage federal funds to spend more, adding more fresh fruits and vegetables than one might find during the actual school year, Torres said. And 95 percent of the offerings will be "a hot meal," she said.
Though representatives from CYFD
did not return calls seeking comment, Jennifer Ramo, executive director of New Mexico Appleseed, an Albuquerque-based nonprofit that works to end hunger, said such summer food programs are popping up all over the state, though she said
some school districts cannot afford to offer them.
"We think of all these kids in summer on Slip N Slides and having a great experience drinking Kool-Aid, but the reality is, many are home alone without food to cook, with an empty refrigerator and parents working ... so this is a great way to get them the vital nutrients that they need to grow," she said, adding that 30 percent of the state's children do not take advantage of free food programs offered through the public schools.
Among the schools offering summer breakfast and lunch: Aspen Community Magnet School, Capital High School, César Chávez and Ramirez Thomas elementary schools, De Vargas and Ortiz middle schools, and the Academy at Larragoite.
Specific information, including dates, times, and locales should be posted on the sfps.info website soon, Torres said. You can visit nmappleseed.org for information on that organization as well.
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