Summer food program offers children free lunch

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Siblings Alleanna Medina, left, Angel Medina, center, and Alex Medina eat lunch in the back of their mother’s SUV Tuesday at Highland Park.

Liliana Castillo

Any child ages 1 through 18 can receive a free lunch throughout June and July at 25 locations in Clovis.

And at two locations in Fort Sumner and one location in Texico.

The Summer Food Service Program is a partnership between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Our Lady of Guadalupe Church.

Breakfast is also served at 18 locations in Clovis.

The church pays for meals and operations up front and is reimbursed by the USDA. Our Lady of Guadalupe has run the program for 21 years, said Program Director Johnny Chavez.

The Summer Food Service Program operates in low-income areas where at least half of the children come from families with incomes at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty level, making them eligible for free and reduced-price school meals, according to the program’s website.

“The program is for every child out there so they can continue the same nutrition that they get through the school year,” Chavez said.

Chavez said some families can’t afford a balanced meal.

“The program provides a complete balanced meal with all the components that they get during the year,” Chavez said.

Chavez said the program feeds between 2,500 and 2,600 children lunch a day and about 1,000 children breakfast a day.

Clovis resident Kim Grubelnik’s three children are among them. Grubelnik said the program is convenient and saves the family money.

“I get off work for lunch, pick them up and we come here,” she said. “It’s very convenient.”

Grubelnik chooses not to buy a lunch to eat with her children but parents can for $2.50.

Tuesday’s lunch consisted of chicken nuggets, apple slices, Chex mix, nectarine and milk.

“For the most part, it’s a balanced meal. There’s usually a vegetable in there and fruit,” she said.

She said the program helps the family’s pocket books, especially with the addition of summer childcare expenses. Grubelnik said she saves $15 a day by bringing her children to Highland Park every day for lunch.

Shyloh Garcia walks her niece 2-year-old Serenity Vasquez to the lunch site at the Arts Academy at Bella Vista every day the lunch is available.

“It’s easy,” she said. “She likes coming here. It’s food she’ll actually eat.”

Garcia, 16, said she also enjoys the lunch.

“My sister doesn’t have much food in their house so bringing them here helps them out a lot,” Garcia said.

The program runs through July 29.