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Pauline Robison, the cafeteria manager for Valencia Middle School, hands out free meals to children at the middle school on Monday.

LOS LUNAS — Los Lunas Schools doesn’t want its students to go without during the holidays, and wants to help bring a sense of normalcy by offering a holiday meal.

On Wednesday, Dec. 16, at seven drop off points in the district, Los Lunas Schools will be handing out posole with red chile, tortillas and veggies, said Angela Haney, the director of student nutrition.

And on Friday, Dec. 18, the final day of the semester, Los Lunas Schools will be providing a week’s worth of meals — both breakfast and lunch — for students in the district who are in need.

“Our goal is to feed as many children that we possibly can, especially those who really need it because unfortunately, in every community, while most of our children are loved and adored and taken care of, there’s that one segment that for no fault of their own — they’re just not able to, you know, they may not have the meals that they need, they may not have the care that they need,” Haney said. “And so this is kind of our way to try and get meals for everyone, but especially those munchkins.”

Los Lunas Schools currently is running the Summer Food Service Program, which is organized by the USDA and the New Mexico Public Education Department. Haney said it is a more flexible program because it not only allows students in the district to pick up meals, but any child ages 1-18 who may live in the area.

“We got a call from a family where a student in their home actually attends high school in Albuquerque, but lives in the school district, and his family asked if we could get that student meals,” Haney said.

Students, or those ages 1-18 who live in the district but may not attend school here, can pick up lunch from seven different meal sites. Those sites are Los Lunas High School, Los Lunas Elementary School, Bosque Farms Elementary School, Ann Parish Elementary School, Valencia Middle School, and the fire stations in Meadow Lake and Highland Meadow. Pickup time for those meals is between noon and 1 p.m.

Haney estimates that out of the more than 8,000 students in the district, about 500-600 are picking up food each day. She did say, however, that no food is going to waste and that they’ve scaled back how much food is prepared. The district is keeping those working in the cafeterias busy by having them make foods, such as bread from scratch.

“To keep our people busy, and to make things nice, we started baking all of our bread or rolls,” Haney said. “We already do toast for breakfast and all dinner rolls are baked from scratch. But we added hamburger buns, hot dog buns, cornbread, muffins — anything that we could make from scratch, we did.”

A requirement of this program, too, is that children get a half cup of fresh veggies, so Haney and her team had been buying local produce from farmers during the growing season.

Claire Cieremans, the chief financial officer for the district, said she has been proud of how Haney and the nutrition team have been handling meals throughout the pandemic. And while things have changed for students by not being in the cafeteria with friends, Cieremans is happy to know some students are still able to make a connection by picking up meals and maybe seeing someone he or she knows.

“They go above and beyond to be recognizing the needs of students in the area,” Cieremans said.

Cieremans said the workers in the nutrition program are the unsung heroes. Haney said the district is here for any students — or families — in need of help and she hopes that there will be less chance of fear of reaching out.

“You know if people are struggling, we are here. We have people who are ready to make meals — my ladies are amazing,” Haney said.

Staff Writer

Matthew Narvaiz was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He attended the University of New Mexico and worked at the Taos News before coming to the News-Bulletin. He covers the village of Los Lunas, Los Lunas Schools, SODA and the town of Peralta.

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