From September 30th to October 4th, as part of “New Mexico-Grown Week”, students across the state will participate in special events and activities that highlight a variety of fruits and vegetables cultivated from local farms, hoop houses and school gardens. Participating schools may prepare special meals featuring local produce, invite farmers into the classroom to discuss the importance of local agriculture, or have students plant their own school gardens.
“New Mexico-Grown Week” is an opportunity to recognize school districts across the state that purchase produce from local farmers to enhance student nutrition. The New Mexico Public Education Department (NM PED) distributed a total of $450,000 to 58 school districts this year to help schools purchase locally-grown food for their cafeterias and allowing 9 districts to create farm-to-school partnerships for the first time. A full list of districts that received funds from the New Mexico-Grown Local Produce Grant can be found here.
“We’re helping build a system where farmers are connected to local institutions,” said Kendal Chavez, NM PED Farm-to-School Coordinator. “This aids farmers in keeping their production local, while at the same time improving New Mexico’s food economy and enhancing nutrition in school.”
The New Mexico Department of Health’s (NMDOH) currently supports 13 “Healthy Kids Healthy Communities” is coordinating activities for New Mexico-Grown Week, as well as “Farm-to-School Month” in October. The program curriculum encourages healthy eating and physical activity (before, during and after school), starting with elementary school aged children. As a result of adopting the program, nineteen school districts—Chaves, Colfax, Curry, Grant, Hidalgo, Roosevelt, San Juan and Socorro counties and Zuni Pueblo—received $118,500 to buy New Mexico grown produce for school meals this year.
“New Mexico-Grown Week is one way we partner with the Public Education Department to highlight what our local schools are doing to increase healthy eating opportunities and the positive impact on child health, academic performance, and reducing hunger,” said Rita Condon, who leads the NMDOH’s Healthy Kids Healthy Communities program.
“The New Mexico Grown Program has given us an opportunity to spur our creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship of young people in our area,” said Anthony Youth Farm owner Alma Maquitico. Her farm provides produce to schools in Anthony, NM.
Through the Public Education Department’s“Farm-to-School program”, almost 172,000 students at more than 500 schools across New Mexico will eat produce from local farmers and cooperatives as part of school meals.
The New Mexico Department of Health and Public Education Department collaborate throughout the year to ensure school children have moreopportunities to eat healthy food and are physically active. The two departments work together on wellness policies, school gardens, and preschool and farm-to-school initiatives.