AP NEWS

New Mexico ends co-pays for reduced-price school lunches

March 3, 2020 GMT

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Low-income students who qualified for reduced-price school breakfast and lunch no longer have to come up with co-payments for the meals under a measure signed into law by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

The governor signed the bill Monday, saying that while many families meet the criteria for reduced fees, they still have difficultly coming up with the money when they have multiple children in school.

“A 40-cent copay should never come between a child and the food they need to grow and learn,” she said in a statement.

The legislation comes with a $650,000 appropriation that the state Public Education Department will use to reimburse school districts for the fees the children normally would have paid.

Supporters say the change will make school meals accessible to an additional 12,500 students. The new law has the potential to bring to the state about $9 million in federal matching funds for school meals.

New Mexico is on track this school year to serve more than 13.5 million school breakfasts, Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart said. Each meal represents an opportunity to show students that state officials are invested in making sure they have the nutrition they need to be able to focus in the classroom, he said.

With one of the highest rates of food insecurity in the U.S., New Mexico ranks third nationally on the rate of participation of low-income students in the school breakfast program. Only Vermont and West Virginia reach more low-income students with their breakfast programs.