City schools qualify for free lunches

William Thompson

All Tucumcari Public School students will be receiving free breakfasts at school this year, and school officials found out recently that city schools also qualify for free lunches pending school board approval. Sonia Raftery, Executive Assistant to the superintendent of Tucumcari schools, said achool officials found out the good news at a meeting in Portales recently.

“We went to a New Mexico School Lunch Program workshop in Portales last week,” said Raftery. “We told them that we thought we qualified for free lunches for all students. “They said we qualified and wondered why we hadn’t tried for the free lucnches before. We replied that we simply didn’t know that we were eligible before.”

T.J.Riddle, Raftery’s assistant, said Tucumcari’s overall poverty rate made Tucumcari Schools eligible for the free lunch program for all students. “During school registration this week, we need everyone to fill out the “Free or Reduced Lunch applications so that we can have a baseline to turn into the state lunch program,” she said. “We need everyone to fill out the applications. It should only take about three minutes to fill out the application.”

Tucumcari High School Principal Gary Salazar said the high school is requiring that everyone fill out the applications when they register at the school this week. He said that if the free lunches are approved it will be good news for finacially challenged families.”If it is approved, I think it will be a great program,” said Salazar. “It would ensure that everybody gets something to eat.”

Raftery said her office staff has been working briskly so that the free lunch program paperwork can be submitted to school board members at their next meeting Aug. 16.
“”We’re putting the free lunch program on the school board agenda for the next meeting,” said Raftery. “The state has already said we qualify, so if the school board approves it then it’s a go.”

Raftery said that the quality of lunches available to students would improve under the free lunch program.
“The food will eventually be healthier and of higher quality because we will be getting more money from the state,” said Raftery. “Hopefully more students will be eating lunch in the cafeterias.”Salazar said he doubts that a majority of high school students will take advantage of the free lunches if they are approved.

“We have an open campus here, so many students go out for lunch,” he said. “Just 20-25 of our high school students eat in the cafeteria. It would be nice if the number of students eating in the cafeteria increased.” Michelle Jaynes, a mother of three public school students, said she hopes the quality of the lunches will remain high under a free lunch program. “As long as the quality remains high, I think it will be great,” said Jaynes. “I haven’t been able to calculate yet how much of a finacial impact on our family there would be if we didn’t have to pay for the lunches anymore.”