Universal Healthy, Free School Meals Bill Signed Into Law
Surrounded by 4th graders at Pinon Elementary School in Santa Fe on Monday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed into law a bill that guarantees all school children in the state have access daily to a free breakfast and lunch.
SB 4, The Healthy Universal Meals Act passed both the State House and Senate unanimously.
New Mexico joins four other states that have established universal free meals in law. Senate Bill 4 is the only legislation, however, that includes provisions related to healthy meal requirements and food waste.
Lujan Grisham says the focus will be on using fresh products that are locally grown to also help New Mexico farmers.
“We’re not going to see overproduced, over-starched meals with lots more fresh fruits and vegetables,” she said. “America has not gotten that right, but it’s going to be the states and universal meals that really make a dent. My goal is maybe when I leave this incredible job we go to a school unannounced and get what is an incredibly fresh, home cooked meal that every kid eats nearly in its entirety. That’s the goal.”
Senate Bill 4 establishes the Healthy Hunger-Free Students Bill of Rights Act which ensures that all K-12 students have free-of-cost breakfasts and lunches beginning in the 2023-2024 school year. About $30 million will be used each year to cover the cost of the initiative. A rule making to determine the standards for healthy meals will be held this summer, with implementation of the standards phasing in over the next two school years.
The bill is accompanied by $20 million in the state budget to fund improvements to school kitchen infrastructure to better enable them to cook meals from scratch.
The bill was sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Michael Padilla and Sen. Leo Jaramillo.