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Free evening meals offered through Farmington school district

After-school programs eligible for meal reimbursement from state

Megan Petersen
Farmington Daily Times
McKinley Elementary School kindergarten student Raylene Castiano takes a bit from a fruit cup while having dinner Tuesday in the school's cafeteria in Farmington.
  • Meals must include meat or a meat alternative, veggies, fruits, grains and milk.
  • A student nutrition supervisor says she hopes to expand the program's reach in the community.
  • Meals are provided on Mondays through Thursdays at three locations.
  • The school district will be reimbursed $3.20 for each meal.

 

FARMINGTON — Three after-school programs now include a free evening meal free for approximately 150 students in Farmington, thanks to state and federal aid. 

The after-school program at McKinley Elementary School, the night school at Rocinante High School and the after-school program at Sycamore Community Center have all qualified for meal reimbursements through the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department’s Child and Adult Care Food Program.

Jaynelle Minor, the student nutrition supervisor for the Farmington Municipal School District, said the dinner program started on Sept. 18 at the three sites. She said there are between 40 to 50 students who receive a meal every Monday through Thursday at each site through the program. Children must be part of the after-school program to receive a meal.

All three sites have qualified for the meal reimbursement program because they are designated as at risk, Minor said. CYFD communications director Henry Varela said most sites are schools, but community-based organizations can be eligible if they are located in the attendance area of a public school where at least 50 percent of the students are eligible for free or reduced-price meals under the National School Lunch Program.

McKinley Elementary School students eat dinner Tuesday in the school cafeteria.

 

The Child and Adult Care Food Program serves primarily low-income children in child-care settings, including day-care centers, Head Start programs, after-school programs and emergency shelters, according to the CYFD website. The program, which also serves adult day-care centers, is federally funded.

Meals must meet five nutrition components to be eligible for reimbursement, Minor said. Each free meal includes a portion of meat or an alternative to meat, with vegetables, fruits, grains and milk.

The school district is reimbursed approximately $3.20 for each meal served, Minor said. 

Kindergarten student Kiara Bowen displays the contents of her dinner bag Tuesday at McKinley Elementary School in Farmington.

 

Meals are planned and prepared by Aviands Food and Services Management, the same company that has served the district’s in-school meals for the past 11 years, Minor said. 

The district signed a four-year contract with the company, and Minor said she hopes the program will continue over the long term.

The program is in its third week, and Vonna Victor, the recreation program supervisor for the Sycamore Park Community Center, said the busiest days at her site are Mondays and Wednesdays, when the center also presents popular jazz and dance classes, and dodgeball games.

Victor said there is a need for the program.

Kiara Bowen, left, and Raylene Castiano eat dinner Tuesday in the cafeteria at McKinley Elementary School in Farmington.

 

“It benefits the kids that we see every day,” Victor said. “A lot of these kids don’t have money to get snacks from vending machines, and the meals that we provide are a lot healthier. It’s good to know that these kids get at least one good meal a day.”

Minor said eligible organizations can apply to the free meal program at any time and that she hopes to expand the program in Farmington.
 
“We’re seeing a bigger need in our community for programs like this,” Minor said, adding that the district will likely look for more options for similar programs or funding. 

Megan Petersen is the business and education reporter for the Farmington Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4621.