. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Why does Artesia no longer have a free summer lunch program?

6-21-QuestionsFor many years, Artesia was a member of the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service’s annual Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).

Several summers ago, however, the city’s participation suddenly stopped, and residents were left wondering what had happened to the service, which is intended to ensure children of low-income families continue to have access to nutritious meals when school is not in session.

The Daily Press contacted Luis Reyes, recreation supervisor for the City of Artesia and head of the Artesia Center, one of the last sites at which the summer lunch program was conducted, who provided some insight.

When the program was last in operation in Artesia, Artesia Head Start was serving as fiscal agent, cooking the meals and delivering them to the center and local parks. The USDA requires a certified kitchen and staff cook and serve the meals offered through its program.

As funds and personnel became limited, Artesia’s program folded.

As fate would have it, however, Reyes was aware of efforts to re-institute the program this summer through the 7024U Youth Outreach Center.

7024U staff confirmed this morning that the summer lunch program will be returning Monday, June 27, at its new home in the youth outreach center, 702 W. Chisum Ave., the former site of the Artesia Police Department.

“We were trying to find something we could do for the kids this summer,” said Sue Ann Dominguez, lead intervention specialist at 7024U.

The center was contacted by the Roswell Independent School District, which serves as the SFSP agent in Roswell, and asked if they would be interested in hosting a summer lunch program.

“We said, ‘Yes, we’d love to host it,’” Dominguez said, “but we didn’t have the funds to actually do it ourselves.”

The RISD agreed to prepare and transport lunches each weekday, as well as provide training to the 7024U staff.

“They’ll have someone coming down to help us and show us what we need to do, and every day at least one person will be coming to help,” Dominguez said.

The summer lunch program will run from 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, beginning Monday. Children under the age of 18 eat free, and adults may purchase a lunch for just $3. There will be a choice of a hamburger, hot dog or green chile burger, including all the fixings, plus chips, fruit, and chocolate or plain milk or juice.

“We’re just doing this for the kids in our community,” said Dominguez. “And hopefully, once they’ve been here, they might want to be involved in our program during school, also.”

For more information on the summer lunch program, call 7024U at 736-7024.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: “Your Questions Answered” is a new and ongoing Daily Press feature through which readers may ask questions concerning the community. Submit questions to [email protected])