In July, Rio Rancho Public Schools announced 65-inch television giveaway as an incentive to encourage families to submit meal applications for the 2023-24 school year.

The district received more than 2,500 applications and is set to draw the winner at noon Friday. All 2,588 applicants are entered in the drawing, and the winner will be announced on the RRPS Facebook page.

While all students have access to free meals this school year, RRPS still asked families to complete and submit a free meal application. The applications are vital to ensuring RRPS continues to get funding for other programs like the after-school program and technology.

Senate Bill 4, known as The Healthy Universal School Meals for Children Act, passed unanimously in the House in March, making free meals at schools for every student in New Mexico a reality.

This bill, generated from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s FY24 budget proposal and sponsored by state Sen. Michael Padilla, makes school meals available at no cost for every student in the state. It passed 35-0 in the Senate on March 4.

Public school students had received free meals for two years because of federal funding stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. That funding expired this past school year, and Rio Rancho Public Schools saw lunch debt balances soar.

“Universal free meals were discontinued at the beginning of the ’22-’23 school year,” RRPS Communications Director Wyndham Kemsley said in March. “Since then, Rio Rancho Public Schools has seen a return to student lunch debt balances totaling $43,560. This fact underscores a need in our community. With this legislation, we will be able to provide healthy school meals to all of our students, free of charge.  Research shows that children are better prepared to learn when they begin their day with a well-balanced breakfast followed by a healthy lunch. The district is committed to ensuring that hunger is not a barrier to learning, and this bill supports that goal.”