By Mike Linn
The Portales school district will offer free lunches to youngsters at several school locations this summer and will be reimbursed by federal funds at summer’s end.
Anyone under 18 can eat free and adults pay $2 for the meals, funded in part because Portales is classified as a low-income community, food service director Shirley Chatterton said.
“We’re kind of a low-income area, so our children do need our meals,” Chatterton said.
The percentage of students in the school district that qualify for free or reduced meals during the school year is 75 percent, which according to Chatterton is a high rate.
The school district will be reimbursed by federal funds at a rate of $2.16 per meal, over 40 cents more than the costs per meal.
However, Chatterton added that the Portales Municipal School Board is not trying to make money on the deal.
Lunches occur every weekday between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. until Aug. 1 at the following locations: Portales Junior High School, Valencia Elementary, Lindsey Grade School and James Grade School. Free breakfast is also available from 7:30 a.m. to 8:45 a.m., Monday through June 27 at Valencia Elementary.
The program is a continuation from previous years where the city’s Community Services prepared the food.
The difference from those years, Chatterton said, is that children will be able to eat in each school’s cafeteria. In the past the meals were made in one location, then bagged up and taken to parks in the city.
“We feel like some of the advantages to doing it the way we’re doing it is that the children get to come indoors, and so they’re sitting at a table in an air conditioned area,” Chatterton said.
The new system allows for more options.
For example, Chatterton said students recently got ice cream for dessert, which would have been almost impossible to transport to outdoor locations in the dead of summer.