SANTA FE, New Mexico (KVIA) --New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham will sign into law Senate Bill 4, which provides free breakfast and lunch to all public school students in the state, regardless of their economic standing.
The bill, which was passed unanimously by the House of Representatives, also encourages districts to prepare healthier meals for children and to work with local farmers and producers to provide food.
Under SB 4, schools that choose to offer healthier meals will receive more funding, and an incentive grant program has been set up for schools that meet quality standards to purchase and provide New Mexico-grown, raised, or processed food products.
The legislation also aims to reduce food waste by requiring elementary school students to be given enough eating time to finish their meals and by collecting unused food for food pantries, students to take home, or charitable entities.
Almost three-quarters of New Mexico students already receive free and reduced-price lunches, according to the Kids Count Data Center, which is one of the highest rates in the country. The national nonprofit Feeding America estimates that one in five children in New Mexico face hunger problems.
With the passing of SB 4, sovereign nations and private schools within the state can also choose to opt-in to offer free, high-quality meals regardless of income.
Governor Lujan Grisham has made providing free lunches to all students a priority in this year’s legislative session, as educators and child advocates have pointed out for years that a hungry child cannot learn because of an empty stomach.
The bill comes with a $22.5 million appropriation that is within House Bill 2, the state budget bill. With the signing of SB 4, New Mexico joins other states like Maine, Vermont, and New York in providing universal free meals to students.