Sen. Michael Sanchez
Sen. Michael S. Sanchez, D-Valencia, Bernalillo, announced that thanks to funding from a state appropriation, children enrolled in Belen and Los Lunas elementary schools will again be eligible to receive free or reduced price school meals.
The much needed program, coordinated by New Mexico Appleseed, continues at a time when the state ranks first in the nation for the highest rate of childhood hunger.
“Child hunger has been directly related to poor performance in school. This program not only prevents students from being hungry during their school day, but also helps them concentrate in class,” Sanchez said. “Having proper nutrition will help keep them healthy and ready to learn when they are in the classroom. Too many New Mexicans struggle with poverty and we need to do our best as lawmakers to make sure they are not forgotten by doing everything we can to show we care about their wellbeing. I’m hopeful we will continue to encourage and support programs like this and get our state off the top of negative lists and onto some good ones for a change. Our kids deserve the best and we have to insure we find effective ways to provide for them.
“This initiative will assist children, whose families cannot afford to have at least one guaranteed meal a day while at school. I’m truly pleased that kids in my district, as well as many around that state, will have the necessary nutrition to allow them to focus on their education rather than on not having enough food in their stomachs. My hope is that this program will not only continue for years to come but that it will expand to include middle and high school students.”
The program requires that the Human Services Department and the Public Education Department automatically enroll underprivileged children into the National School Lunch Program on a monthly basis to enable them to get free or reduced price lunches at school.
All elementary school children are eligible if their families are participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) program. According to Jennifer Ramo, Executive Director for New Mexico Appleseed, schools that are eligible must have at least 80 percent of students who qualify for free or reduced price meals.