Updated April 26, 2022
Need Free Food in New Mexico?
With young children every meal is an adventure. The berries they loved yesterday are now deeply offensive, about 80% of their oatmeal ended up on the floor, and they have been asking you for a cookie for 15 minutes straight. Without stopping.
Mealtime may be a struggle, but having enough food shouldn’t be. New Mexico has programs and options to help make sure every family in the state has enough to eat. We’ve pulled together some key programs and resources, so you don’t have to go searching.
Summer Food Sites
The summer food program serves meals to children in public places like parks and community centers, and you don’t have to sign up or do any paperwork. Just show up and your kids can get fed, regardless of your income. Meals are served to all children ages 1 to 18. Summer meals start up after school gets out, which means the beginning of June in many New Mexico communities. All sites serve lunch, and some also serve breakfast. The state has a great website with details on the program and a way to search for a summer meal site near you. If you prefer, you can also call 1-800-EAT-COOL (the actual, official state phone number) for help finding a site near you.
Summer food sites are great, but they aren’t aimed at pregnant people or babies younger than 1 year. Fortunately, WIC has got you covered. WIC is the common name for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, and the program is focused on making sure pregnant people, babies, and young children have nutritious food, including baby formula as needed. Through WIC, you can get help paying for healthy food, find support with breastfeeding, and get connected with other services you need. To learn more and to see if you’re eligible (there’s an income cap), visit this website for all the details.
Meals in Child Care
If you’re searching for child care, consider asking providers if they participate in the Child and Adult Care Food Program, or CACFP. CACFP reimburses child care providers for serving healthy meals and snacks to the kids in their care, which is good news for you. For one thing, participating child care providers will often provide meals and snacks to all the kids in their care, at no extra cost to you. Imagine a life where packing lunches for your kids is permanently off your to-do list. Just savor it. Plus, participating providers are required to meet federal nutrition standards, so you can be confident your little one is being served healthy foods that are right for their development. Whether they will actually eat them is an open question. CACFP is available in home-based settings as well as centers, so you can search for care that meets all your needs. You might be asked about your income for record-keeping, but most child care centers that participate in CACFP serve free meals to all kids in their care, regardless of income.
A food bank may be your best bet if your family needs free food quickly. New Mexico has a strong network of food banks that serve every county in the state through more than 500 sites. That means there’s probably a spot near you where you can pick up free grocery items for your family. Food pantries and other distribution sites don’t generally ask about your income, though they might ask for your address or a photo ID. Road Runner Food Bank has a helpful Food Finder tool that lets you search statewide for food distribution sites near you and find their contact information. They suggest calling the site before you go, to check their hours and any requirements.
If you need help affording groceries to feed your family, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) may be a helpful support for you. The program is available to New Mexicans with lower incomes, and could provide you with some extra money to spend on food. If you aren’t sure whether you would qualify, you can find out at New Mexico’s portal for financial assistance programs. An added bonus of using this portal is that it’s a one-stop-shop for seeing if you qualify for other things, like Medicaid or help paying utility bills.