Thousands of New Mexico school kids from every economic background can now focus on their studies rather than their next meal, thanks to a new law providing free meals.
The legislation was signed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) on Mar. 27, and guarantees that all K-12 students at public schools will receive free food regardless of their parents' incomes.
With New Mexico's passage of the universal meals program, it joins California, Colorado, Maine and Minnesota in providing a permanent free meal plan for students. Many other states are planning to end their free meal policies this year or next year, however, Nevada lawmakers are considering a bill to continue them until 2025.
“When we feed our children, we’re feeding our future,” Grisham said in a statement. “These investments today will yield benefits tomorrow through generations of healthier New Mexicans.”
In New Mexico, 309,000 students qualify for free and reduced-price lunches through the National School Lunch Program. Approximately 70,000 children could be affected by the new law, according to data cited by the state education department.
Locally grown produce is also a focus of the new law. A report by the AP says that more than 170 farmers, ranchers, and food businesses are currently selling local goods to schools in 19 counties in New Mexico.
An identical bill was signed into law by Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D) earlier this month. While New Mexico’s free meals bill passed unanimously in the state’s House and Senate, some Republican lawmakers in Minnesota were more skeptical.
“I have yet to meet a person in Minnesota that is hungry,” state Sen. Steve Drazkowski (R) said on the Senate floor in St. Paul before voting against the legislation. “I have yet to meet a person in Minnesota that says they don’t have access to enough food to eat.”
Approximately 8% of Wabasha County's children live in poverty in 2021, up from about 7% in the previous year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
New Mexico’s new law takes effect July 1.
States like New Mexico that are prioritizing the wellbeing of children is something we love to see!
Source: The Huffington Post