RELEASE: School meals continue without in-person learning

Wave pattern


SANTA FE – No child will miss a school-provided meal due to remote learning to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, the New Mexico Public Education Department reaffirmed today.

Since in-person instruction ended March 16, the department has provided almost 9 million meals to New Mexico children through their school districts. That will continue.

“We’re going to work as much as we can through whatever obstacles arise to get all these children fed,” said Michael A. Chavez, director of New Mexico’s National School Lunch Program.

New Mexico school children are served by two federally funded nutrition programs: The National School Lunch Program, which provides free and reduced-price meals to qualifying children at their schools, and the Seamless Summer Option, which provides free meals to all children who seek them, no questions asked.

New Mexico switched to the summer program in March, with districts offering grab-and-go-meals in school cafeterias, congregate food drop-off sites and food deliveries by school bus drivers along remote transportation routes. (Check here for summer meal sites.)

This summer, every district and charter school in New Mexico was required to submit a school re-entry plan that includes a description of how meals will continue to be provided in various scenarios, including remote learning. Most districts indicated they will continue with the plan in place since March 16.

In addition to the school nutrition effort, the Early Childhood Education and Care Department served 5.2 million meals and snacks from the middle of March to the end of May while schools and many child care facilities were closed.

Over the summer, ECECD’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) program has provided free meals for children across New Mexico, no questions asked. These efforts will continue through the end of August, and the department is seeking a waiver from the federal government that would allow the program to operate into September.

In addition, SFSP has been providing breakfasts and lunches each day to 2,858 children in 15  pueblos and around chapter houses that were closed to the public or observing traveling restrictions during the pandemic. These efforts are ongoing.

ECECD also will continue to operate the Child and Adult Care Food Program, which offers free and reduced-price meals to children and adults. Many organizations participate in the program, including Head Start programs, child care centers, before- and after-school care programs, family child care home providers, pre-K programs, emergency housing shelters, hospitals and clinics, schools, preschools and adult day care facilities.

“The Early Childhood Education & Care Department will continue to work closely with PED and the Governor’s Office to ensure that every child in New Mexico has healthy, nutritious food throughout the pandemic and beyond,” said Alejandra Rebolledo Rea, director of ECECD’s Early Care, Education & Nutrition Division.