SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Under a decision that was announced last week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, New Mexico school children will be able to eat for free through December. The New Mexico Public Education Department reports that schools may continue to serve free meals to all children through the end of the year or until funding runs out as stated by the federal agency.
“This is a huge relief for many New Mexico families who might not qualify for free meals but are still facing hard times because of this pandemic,” said Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart in a press release. “Now feeding their children is one less worry.”
This announcement reverses a previous decision that would have ended the free summer meal program when schools resumed in the fall. Lawmakers asked the USDA on August 15 to extend regulatory wavers in order to allow schools to serve meals to all children at no cost, regardless of if they were enrolled or qualified for free lunch.
The USDA denied the request five days later, stating Congress had not authorized a universal school meals program. The reversal was announced on August 31 in which notifications were sent to each state, including New Mexico, granting waivers to regulations governing the Summer Food Service Program and the National School Lunch Program Seamless Summer Option.
NMPED states that in-person learning is not required to receive a school meal. Since schools closed in mid-March as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, New Mexico schools have provided over 13 million meals to children at grab-and-go sites or were delivered by school bus drivers. This system will continue in districts that remain in remote learning.