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More Kids in New Mexico Getting Summer Meals

PHOTO: The Summer Nutrition Program funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture is helping more children in New Mexico and around the nation, according to a new report from the Food Research and Action Center. Photo credit: California Department of Food and Agriculture.
PHOTO: The Summer Nutrition Program funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture is helping more children in New Mexico and around the nation, according to a new report from the Food Research and Action Center. Photo credit: California Department of Food and Agriculture.
June 4, 2015

SANTA FE, N.M. – More children in New Mexico and around the nation are benefiting from the Agriculture Department's Summer Nutrition Program, and that's expected to be the case this summer as well.

A new report from the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) shows about 59,000 children in New Mexico were served a free meal each day last summer, reflecting a 14 percent increase from the year before.

It also ranks New Mexico second in the nation behind Washington, D.C.

Jennifer Ramo, executive director of the poverty policy group New Mexico Appleseed, says part of the increase is linked to getting more meals to children.

"Everyone has worked so hard on awareness and outreach that it's really finally starting to show and pay off in terms of the number of children getting fed," she explains.

The report also shows that the number of feeding sites dropped 5 percent, which Ramo says is likely linked to several rural sites failing because of the cost of travel and other factors.

Nationally, the research says more than 3 million children participated in the Summer Nutrition Program in July 2014, up 7 percent over the previous year.

Ramo says she is hopeful that Congress will reauthorize funding for the nutrition program later this year, because the FRAC report shows the program is working to reduce hunger.

"And I think people do not realize how important these programs are to children's academic outcomes, how important the food they get there is, in terms of their physical outcomes," she stresses.

Ramo points out the key to continued growth requires ongoing promotion and outreach to connect families with the program.

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - NM