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Mora nutrition director honored for giving students healthy, locally-sourced meals

Rachel Roybal-Rogers of Mora has been named 2023 Southwest region Director of the Year by the national non-profit School Nutrition Association.
via the School Nutrition Association
Rachel Roybal-Rogers of Mora has been named 2023 Southwest region Director of the Year by the national non-profit School Nutrition Association.

The food service director for Mora Independent School District, Rachel Roybal-Rogers, has been honored by the non-profit School Nutrition Association for her work promoting healthier meals for students.

Rachel Roybal-Rogers, who has been director for 13 years, was named the Southwest region director of the year, for work that she says is rewarding if challenging.

"We do have picky eaters," she said, laughing. "Kids are picky, but we try to offer them a variety of foods."

She uses a state grant to buy local produce and diversify the children's diet.

"Quite a few New Mexico-grown products such as apples, peaches, plums, carrots, pinto beans, green chile," she said.

Roybal-Rogers added that letting kids taste new recipes and say what they like helps the cafeteria figure out which meals to put in regular rotation.

She began a classroom breakfast program about ten years ago, and during the pandemic and some holidays her team has been able to make meals for low-income families and, in the rural area, arrange to leave them at local fire stations for collection.

"They always tell us, 'That is the best food' or 'You make the best food'," she said. "You know, it's always nice to hear them, see their smiles and for them to be happy."

Many families in New Mexico have limited or uncertain access to food. The nonprofit New Mexico Voices estimated in 2020 about a quarter of children in the state experienced food insecurity. This year, the governor signed into law a program for universal free school meals statewide.

Alice Fordham joined the news team in 2022 after a career as an international correspondent, reporting for NPR from the Middle East and later Latin America and Europe. She also worked as a podcast producer for The Economist among other outlets, and tries to meld a love of sound and storytelling with solid reporting on the community. She grew up in the U.K. and has a small jar of Marmite in her kitchen for emergencies.
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