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