Governor signs Senate Bill 4, making universal free and healthy school meals the law of the land
SANTA FE – Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham today signed Senate Bill 4, ensuring all students have access to free and healthy school meals, alongside students at Pinon Elementary School in Santa Fe.
The bill is sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Michael Padilla and Sen. Leo Jaramillo and passed unanimously through the Legislature.
“Today, New Mexico is leading the nation by not only providing free healthy school meals to every student in our state, but we’re also making sure those meals are nutritious foods that kids want to eat,” said Gov. Lujan Grisham. “When we feed our children, we’re feeding our future – these investments today will yield benefits tomorrow through generations of healthier New Mexicans.”
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.
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 rulemaking 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.
“Healthy meals in schools lead to healthy young minds in our communities, and I’m incredibly proud of the partnerships we are forging to ensure every student has access to nutritious meals at school,” said Sen. Padilla. “From the Hunger-Free Students’ Bill of Rights Act we passed six years ago ending lunchroom shaming, to this measure ensuring that every kid will have access to free, nutritious meals, New Mexico continues to set a national example for addressing childhood food and nutrition security. I applaud Governor Lujan Grisham for making this a priority and signing Senate Bill 4 into law today.”
“For many families in communities across New Mexico, access to a nutritious breakfast and lunch will fill an absolutely critical need, given that for some kids these might be the only meals they have for that day,” Sen. Jaramillo said. “No child should ever have to suffer from being hungry, and I want to thank the Governor for her support on Senate Bill 4 and carrying through on her promise to provide healthy, free meals for every student in New Mexico.”
“These meals are as critical to student success as textbook, desks, and pencils,” said PED Secretary Arsenio Romero. “I celebrate this bill becoming a law and am grateful to the governor and her staff for all the care they put into building such thoughtful, holistic legislation. This is the best of us.”
Seated at the table, from left to right, are Sen. Leo Jaramillo, Gov. Lujan Grisham, Sen. Michael Padilla and Alejandro Najera, a fifth-grader from East San Jose Elementary School in Albuquerque.