School districts expand summer meal programs

by Joshua Kellogg, Farmington Daily Times
May 29, 2017

FARMINGTON — School districts in San Juan County are increasing the number of sites offering free meals to feed local students this summer.

The districts provide free meals to people 18 years old and younger during the summer as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program.

In New Mexico, 29 percent of children 17 years old and younger lived in poverty in 2015, according to data from the nonprofit New Mexico Voices for Children.

For San Juan County, 23.5 percent of children 17 years old and younger were living in poverty in 2015.

The Aztec School District will serve lunch at four sites this year for the first time in recent history, according to district food service director Bob Schyver.

The district was urged by New Mexico Appleseed, a nonprofit group that is part of a nationwide network to address poverty, to pursue restarting its summer meal program in Aztec, Schyver said.

There are three meal sites in Aztec that the Bloomfield School District operated in previous years and will continue to operate this year.

Schyver hopes to see about 300 meals served per day through the program.

A barbecue grill will rotate between the sites each day to offer children a hot meal. Sack lunches will be served during the rest of the week.

A partnership between the city of Farmington and the Farmington Municipal School District helped the district add four new meal sites, thanks to a $25,000 grant to purchase two new food trailers.

Jaynelle Minor, the student nutrition supervisor for Farmington schools, said the city asked the school district to partner with it and apply for a National Recreation and Park Association Healthy Out-of-School Time Grant. She said the grant will help the district serve more hot breakfasts and lunches, along with dinner, at two sites for the first time.

The 11 public meal sites are an increase from the six sites Farmington schools operated last year.

Cory Styron, director of the city of Farmington Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department, said the partnership is a great way for the city and school district to help address nutrition issues in the community.

The Central Consolidated School District summer meal program has added new meal sites at the chapter houses in Upper Fruitland, Becalabito, Naschitti and Sheep Springs this year, according to Margene Purcella, district food service coordinator.

The CCSD summer meal program served 59,635 lunches and 18,903 breakfast meals last summer. Purcella said.

She said an average of 1,570 children were served lunch, and 498 children were served breakfast each day between the district’s 18 sites operated last year.

The New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department is hosting a second annual Summer Food Kick Off event from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday at Salmon Park at 301 N. 5th St. in Bloomfield.

Evelyn Barry, the Bloomfield food services director, said hamburgers and hot dogs will be served. About 125 meals were served at last year’s inaugural event.

Bloomfield schools served 2,949 breakfasts and 19,720 lunches during last year’s summer meal program.

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