MEDIA CONTACT: Judy Robinson
Sept. 30, 2021
Winners named in New Mexico Grown program
Schools, senior centers honored for supporting local food movement
SANTA FE -- Thirteen school districts, five senior centers and one Head Start facility will be honored next month for connecting students and seniors to locally grown food -- efforts that strengthen New Mexico’s farming economy and increase access to good nutrition.
Representatives from the Governor’s Office and five state agencies -- the Aging and Long-Term Services, Early Childhood Education & Care and Public Education departments and the Departments of Agriculture and Health -- will recognize winners of the annual New Mexico Grown competition at a virtual celebration at 2 p.m. Oct. 13.
“It is our great pleasure to honor institutions across our state that are expanding marketplaces for local farmers while also providing nutritious, New Mexico-grown food for preschoolers through seniors,” said Kendal Chavez, food and hunger coordinator in the Office of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and lead of the New Mexico Grown Coalition’s Interagency Task Force.
“Congratulations to all the organizations that prioritize local food and invest in the health of the people they serve,” said Dr. David R. Scrase, M.D., acting secretary of the Department of Health. “When children can grow, taste and learn about produce, they are more likely to develop lifelong healthy habits that can make a positive impact on obesity in New Mexico.”
The New Mexico Grown Farm to School Program is designed to increase and diversify the base of New Mexico producers selling to schools and other institutions.
“New Mexico has a rich agriculture heritage, and our producers deliver the nutritious products we all love,” Agriculture Secretary Jeff Witte said. “These organizations are role models in providing fresh, local products and in supporting local farmers. Together we are growing a healthier New Mexico, including its economy.”
The program helps assure that fresh produce used in school meals is safe, traceable and originates from a garden or farm using sound and current food safety practices.
“Children can’t learn on empty stomachs, and this program makes sure that school meals are not only nutritious but fresh and local. This is a win-win for every participant,” said Public Education Secretary Designate Kurt Steinhaus.
The program awarded $474,400 in grants this year to 59 school food authorities serving 281,000 students and $147,500 in grants to six entities representing 36 senior centers serving 15,000 seniors.
Previously, the awards were given only to schools and farmers at an event occurring during the legislative session, but this year’s program expanded to include senior centers, which incorporated more locally grown produce in 360,000 grab-’n’-go, congregate or home-delivered meals to homebound seniors.
Senior centers could qualify for awards based on only two criteria: procuring locally grown food and establishing edible gardens. One center, Sandoval County Senior Program, won the state’s only Golden Chile award for accomplishing both.
“We’re so excited to be part of this much-needed and creative program. The fresh fruits and vegetables from local farms being provided through the NM Grown program to our seniors enrich their lives with nutritious options while also helping to invigorate local farms,” said Aging and Long-Term Services Secretary Katrina Hotrum-Lopez.
The Early Childhood Education & Care Department is preparing to use $44,886 in funding to start a pilot program at four childcare and Head Start facilities. One Head Start facility -- the Family Resource Center in Deming -- got a head start and made the list of honorees this year.
“ECECD is proud to bring fresh, healthy, and locally grown food into child care and adult care facilities across New Mexico through this important program,” ECECD Secretary Elizabeth Groginsky said. “Children ages 0-5 are experiencing the most important period of growth and development, and proper nutrition during this time is crucial to building their brains, nourishing their bodies and establishing healthy life-long eating habits.”
Award recipients are being honored in four categories: Seed (program has potential), Sprout (program is growing strong), Blossom (program is reaching maturity) and Golden Chile (mature and fruitful program.)
- City of Las Vegas Senior Center Program
- Las Vegas City Schools
- PMS Senior Centers in Catron County
- PMS Senior Centers in McKinley County
- PMS Senior Centers in Torrance County
- Pojoaque Valley School District
- Capitan Municipal Schools
- Clovis Municipal Schools
- Dexter Consolidated Schools
- Farmington Municipal Schools
- Family Resource Center, Deming
- Hatch Valley Public Schools
- Lordsburg Municipal Schools
- Socorro Consolidated Schools
- Truth or Consequences Municipal Schools
- West Las Vegas Schools
- Albuquerque Public Schools
- Roswell Independent School District
- Sandoval County Senior Program, Golden Chile
Every year, the State encourages eligible programs to apply for the awards to recognize their progress meeting these criteria: establishing edible gardens, serving locally grown food in meals and snacks, providing gardening lessons and nutrition education, offering culturally-appropriate lessons, and engaging staff, families and/or communities in New Mexico Grown programming.
The NM Grown Coalition is a network of public institutions, community-based organizations and individuals working together to strengthen community food systems across New Mexico.
The coalition’s Interagency Task Force, composed of five state agency partners, is creating a standard system for procuring local produce and food products across all state nutrition programs. This will make it easier for farmers, including small farmers, to sell their produce to local institutions.