MLG’s PED proposes wild new regulations on school lunches

New Mexico politicians simply LOVE to talk about the fact that school lunches in the state are “free” (at least to the students, not taxpayers). Apparently, however, things are not going particularly well with the program because the Public Education Department has issued a brand new proposed regulation that would completely overhaul the State’s school lunch program at what could be a MASSIVE cost to districts and taxpayers.

Public comment is currently being accepted by PED and will be accepted through May 29, 2024. You can do that here with much more detail on the proposal below:

Policy and Legislative Affairs Division
New Mexico Public Education Department
300 Don Gaspar Ave., Room 121
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501

Under the proposed regs here is what a “level 1” school district will have to achieve lest they lose funding (below). Level 2 (outlined in the proposal) is far more aggressive:

  • Half of all meals shall be freshly prepared meals at an onsite kitchen (seems they must be having issues with meal quality and consumption);
  • School food authorities shall offer at least three items on a weekly basis from New Mexico farms, ranches, or food businesses;
  • No less than fifty percent of schools in a school food authority shall grow food on campus to be introduced into school lunch programs (or) fifty percent of schools in a school food authority shall have cafeterias with print or digital resources promoting locally sourced nutrition education.

The first of these seems completely unworkable (and PED knows it which is why they have the 2nd component for “locally sourced nutrition education, whatever THAT means. Who will grow the food (staff, teachers, the kids)? What safety precautions will be taken to make sure the food is clean and safe? Schools aren’t in for much of summer. Who will consume and care for the produce then?  What will all of this cost? Will the tradeoffs in terms of labor, land, water, fertilizer, and pesticides really be worth it?

One additional item caught our attention. Under the proposal, At least fifty percent of schools in a school food authority shall have a composting program in place. If a single school is its own school food authority, that school shall have a composting program in place.

Composting food waste may seem like a great idea, but it is smelly and can even start fires if not tended to. In urban areas there may not be enough space available to compost appropriately while fire is ALWAYS a threat here in arid New Mexico.

New Mexico schools are ranked 52nd across the board nationally on the NAEP (Nation’s Report Card). There are fine components to this proposal, but overall these regulations are ridiculous, unnecessary, and dangerous.