By H. Haveman
School’s out and summer is here! No more wearing uniforms, no more homework, no more riding the bus, and . . . no more school lunches. No matter what kids may say about school food, many families depend on their children receiving free and reduced-price breakfast and lunch during the school year. What’s more, many parents work away from home, despite the school year being over, leaving their older children home to prepare meals for themselves. Surely there are more than a few parents concerned about their teenagers’ choices for well-balanced meals.
The truth is, regular and healthy meals are of utmost importance to the learning process. According to the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, “Lack of good nutrition during the summer months may set up a cycle for poor performance once school begins again. Hunger also may make children more prone to illnesses and other health issues.” These facts have not gone unnoticed. Thus, the New Mexico Collaboration to End Hunger, through CYFD Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), provides nutritious meals to children during the summer when school is not in session. The Children, Youth and Families Department’s Family Nutrition Bureau enters into agreements with local nonprofit sponsoring agencies, local government agencies, faith-based organizations, summer camps, school food authorities and other eligible institutions to administer the SFSP at the local level.
In the Gallup area, the Summer Lunch Program has been around for over twenty years, providing children with nutritious breakfasts and lunches during the summer months. Over the years, several agencies have sponsored the program. Currently, Gallup McKinley County Schools is the local sponsor and rents kitchen space for meal preparation. The program has grown steadily, serving a daily average of 613 children for breakfast and 2100 for lunch last year. Recently, 8 sites have been added through a grant to help offset gas prices. This summer, on weekdays from June 4 until July 27, free meals will be provided to children, ages 1 through 18, at 61 sites throughout the Gallup-McKinley County area (see full listing of sites below). Meals are free to all children within the age limitations and adults who accompany them may purchase a meal if they’d like – $2.00 for breakfast, $3.25 for lunch. Site directors ensure that fresh meals are consumed on site to further promote well-balanced eating habits.
The Summer Lunch Program provides an opportunity for McKinley County’s children to continue physical and social development while providing nutritious meals during the summer months. It gives parents peace of mind and helps our children return to school ready to learn.