TMS nutrition program loses money, food as few students pick up delivered school lunches

From left, Cristina Archuleta, Michele Franco and Patricia Bermudez prepare around 500 meals per day Tuesday (Sept. 15) at Ranchos de Taos Elementary School.

Lillian Torrez, superintendent of Taos Municipal Schools, said that the nutrition program implemented by the district has seen a lack of students picking up their breakfast and lunch meals.

"For some reason, the program has slowed down and we have all this extra food," Torrez said. "The system is not running smoothly and we are losing so much money."

Students registered in the TMS district can pick up meals, Torrez said. Those students can pick up their meals from any of the schools – elementary school up to the high school – from 10 a.m. to noon, Torrez said.

Those same students can pick up meals from bus stops in the district, though there are set times for pickup. There will be over a dozen buses in the district throughout the week delivering meals.

For example, bus #3, driven by James Morgas, will pick up meals from Enos Garcia Elementary School at 8:30 a.m. and within 30 minutes will be at the bus stop at Carson's Trailer Park in El Prado. Then, he'll make a stop at LMNOC broadcasting, then Taos Crating Building.

Morgas will make a total of 18 stops to distribute meals before all is said and done.

Annette Vigil, who drives bus #7, will pick up meals at 8:30 a.m. from Taos High School before making her first stop at 1097 Goat Springs Road in Taos Pueblo. All of her stops throughout the day will be in Taos Pueblo.

Torrez said that the district has to record the name of students who pick up food, which makes it that much harder – and which means a lot less meals are being picked up.

Currently, she said the district is trying to apply for a federal waiver to allow kids not in the school district to pick up meals, too. She said that TMS has the support from the Superintendents Association, who wrote a letter to the state's congressional delegates.

"This is a nationwide issue," Torrez said. "And honestly, it's hard to get anything done unless you're going to open a school."

Torrez said that since there hasn't been a high number of meals distributed in the district, the district has lost money and wasted food. She said she has concerns about students getting the food they need to sustain a healthy lifestyle.

"I'm worried about these kids' nutrition," Torrez said. "There's been a big reduction in kids getting food."

The nutrition program was installed at the end of the spring semester, after schools shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic. It started back up as soon as this school year got underway in August.

Torrez said out of all that has been going on, the challenge of trying to get meals to students has been the most difficult.

"This is our biggest challenge – is getting this food to kids," Torrez said. "We have the buses and we have everything – it's just that nobody is coming."

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