BY STATE SEN. LEO JARAMILLO
Right now, too many kids are learning on an empty stomach, which is why I have co-sponsored Senate Bill 4, Healthy Universal School Meals for every student across our state.
This bill means a lot to me given my humble beginnings. As a student, throughout my public school education in the Española Valley, I qualified for and was a recipient of the free school breakfast and lunch program. As a former teacher in Belen, I witnessed firsthand how hunger affected the learning capacity of many of my students. And as a proud son of a retired public school cook, I saw how my mom took love and pride in feeding hundreds of students. She would even add a little extra food to the trays of students for whom she knew that lunch might be their last meal of the day.
This bill addresses a dire public health issue impacting our children’s education and wellbeing. All New Mexican children need and deserve nutritional, solid breakfast and lunch meals, so they can grow, develop and focus on learning instead of sitting hungry in our classrooms. We, in New Mexico, spend billions of dollars on education, building schools, updating technology and infrastructure, hiring and providing competitive pay for our teachers, and on school security. School meals should be no different in funding, since it’s a return on investment invaluable.
Child hunger and malnutrition in New Mexico is our reality. For more than 80% of school-age children in New Mexico, school breakfast and school lunch provide as much as half of their daily calories. While New Mexico’s food insecurity rates have seen nationally leading decreases, 1 in 5 children continues to have limited or uncertain access to healthy, high-quality food.
This bill also uplifts and supports our local farmers and ranchers so they are directly working with school kitchens to prepare more healthy meals providing local farm fresh foods to the public school meal trays. This is the future for a healthier New Mexico.
This Saturday, the New Mexico State Senate unanimously passed SB 4 on a bipartisan vote of 35-0. In the next two weeks, we need all New Mexicans to help get Senate Bill 4, Healthy Universal School Meals, over the finish line. It will now be referred to the New Mexico House of Representatives, which means your elected Representative needs to hear from you. This bill is a big win for every student, parent and educator as well as local food producers across New Mexico!