On June 3, Presbyterian Santa Fe Medical Center began offering free meals for children, joining five Presbyterian hospitals that already provide the meals both during the school year and throughout the summer. In addition, summer meal hours have expanded at other sites.
New Mexico leads the nation in child hunger rates, with one of every four children at risk of childhood hunger and food insecurity.
According to Victoria Sainz, food service operations manager at Presbyterian Santa Fe Medical Center, on its first day, staff at the medical center served four children who had all visited the hospital specifically for the program. The number of participants has increased every week since then.
"There is a lot of excitement around it," Sainz said. "The kids are excited about it, and I know the parents are too. It's an honor to be part of the program."
Since the program began in 2016, Presbyterian sites have provided more than 42,471 healthy meals to children. The program provides free, nutritious meals and snacks to children as part of Presbyterian's partnership with the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service (USDA) Southwest Region and the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD).
"It has been fun to think about what kids might enjoy," Sainz said. Her team ensures meals meet specific requirements, which include at least one ounce of grains, ¾ cup of vegetables, ¾ cup of fruit and two ounces of protein.
So far, meals have included kid favorites like turkey sandwiches and spaghetti and meat sauce.
"It's been very rewarding for myself and for the whole team," Sainz said. "I think it's amazing that Presbyterian is doing this."