Nearly one-third of APS schools return to paid lunches

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Free lunches were a big help for Albuquerque families during the pandemic, and now, about one-third of Albuquerque public schools are going back to paid lunches.

“I wouldn’t say I don’t mind it,” said Erica Garcia, the parent of a student at Corrales Elementary. “It’s just, it’s kind of frustrating that they take that away from the kids.”

According to APS, money for the school meals came from the federal government.

“That includes our labor, that includes our trucks, our gas and our food,” said Sandra Kemp, the executive director for Food and Nutrition Services at APS.

A new Consumer Price Index report published Wednesday shows food prices increased more than 1%.

“That is significant, and that hits a lot of bottom lines, particularly as we gear up for the fall season as students go back to school and, consequently, parents have to supply those school lunches,” said Reilly White, UNM finance professor.

According to APS officials, families who are struggling to cover that extra cost can apply for free or reduced lunch.

“You can fill it out on your phone even or online,” Kemp said. “And again, if you’re having issues, we do have a few paper applications.”

APS said 103 of its schools in high-poverty areas still offer free lunches for all students. That’s about 72% of the district.

“CEP’s are Community Eligibility Provision schools,” Kemp said. “If you’re attending one of those schools, the lunches are still free for those students. However, the other ones do need to fill out an application. And again, it’s a family application – so we only need one per household.”

If you or someone you know would like to apply for free lunches, click here.