Los Chavez

What’s for lunch, Mom?

Summer means kids are home from school, thus the need to prepare lunch. Many families take advantage of the federally funded free Summer Lunch Program provided by the Belen and Los Lunas school districts and St. Mary’s Catholic School.

“They like to come here,” said Cathy Sedillo of her children. “They like the variety. At home, we’d probably be eating sandwiches.”

“It’s convenient. We use the summer lunch program to get out of the house,” said Maggie Moya, while her children ate lunch at Dennis Chavez Elementary School in Los Chavez. “The kids will come to me and say ‘Mom are we going to lunch?’ So we load up the car and bring them to lunch.”

To make it an outing, Moya said, she will sometimes take the kids swimming afterwards, or, as when they ate in Los Lunas’ Daniel Fernandez Park, take along a volleyball net so the kids could play.

“It’s fun to come here,” said Krystal Heslett, 7, as she devoured a bean burrito, salad, french fries and a banana from her plate while gulping down a cartoon of milk. “If I didn’t, I’d have to make myself a sandwich at home.”

Heslett and her siblings and friends start the day at Dennis Chavez Elementary by eating breakfast, then they stay for art class. “Almost every day, we all stay for lunch,” she said. “My brother, Zack, likes to ride his bike to lunch while Mom drops the rest of us off.”

When Moya learned that Los Lunas’ program ended July 1, she said it was sad. “We used to live in Meadow Lake. It’s sad they don’t have free lunch up there now. There’s a lot of kids up there that need a healthy meal. This program helps parents out a lot.”

Felix Candelaria of Con Carino Christian Child Development Center in Los Lunas was disappointed when Los Lunas stopped its program. He takes an average of 20 kids from the center’s summer day care program to the free lunches on the way to field trips.

“I was disappointed with Los Lunas. Having to come here, it’s a little out of our way,” Candelaria said. “I wish they had kept the program going in Los Lunas. We were told by one of the cooks that the Los Lunas School Board didn’t fund the program for July.”

By using the free lunch program, the child care center has been able to help parents with their child care costs. “If we didn’t have this, they’d have to send money for the kids to eat while on field trips,” Candelaria said. “We still prepare lunch for the children staying at the center. We also give them breakfast and snacks in the morning and afternoons.”

“We’re grateful the lunches are free,” said Teresa Kear of Los Lunas. “We checked out the Los Lunas meals at the beginning of summer and we liked the Belen ones better.”

“We went to the park and couldn’t find it,” said Kear’s friend Tina Ornelas of the women’s experience in Los Lunas. “Plus, they served earlier and stop serving at 12:30 (p.m.) on the dot.”

“Belen is a lot more friendly,” Kear said. “They provided a packet at the beginning of the summer with a complete list of meals for the summer. That way we know what’s being served before we get here.”

With stomachs full, the children wander off to play. Or the parents load them back into their cars and head off to do errands before the kids begin to chant “what’s for dinner?”

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Jane Moorman