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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Student families at NMSU get a lunch break

For the starving student at New Mexico State University, free food is a fine, fortunate occasion. But to the student families raising a household, caring for a child and attending school, free lunches for their children every weekday is a relief deemed utterly "fantastic."

From 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Preciado Park, by the NMSU student family apartments, people gather under the shade of the lofty trees and concrete canopy where free, nutritious lunches are served to children by Families and Youth Inc., a local, private organization.

The first-come, first-served lunches require no fee or registration, and any child under age 18 that shows up to one of the many food service locations around Las Cruces may eat, but you can't take it to-go.

"It's a way of building communities," said Julie Weber, director of housing and residential life at NMSU. "Kids play together, parents meet, and they eat lunch together, there at the park. Plus the lunch bag includes a nutritional, well balanced lunch. A main course, usually a sandwich or burrito, piece of fruit, candy and a drink."

For the more than 500 families and 700 children that reside in south campus apartments, the location seems ideal. But NMSU Preciado Park was not on the original itinerary of FYI lunch spots.

"A student really started it all," Weber said.

Rhonda Gray, an NMSU student with four children, knew about the other free lunch locations around town, but, like many other on-campus residents, she couldn't transport her children to any of them.

"I contacted FYI and in less than a week they where at the park, serving their lunches," Gray said. "It's really fantastic."

"My children have been going to school all year. Then all of a sudden they're home for the summer. You really realize how much that one meal helps," she said.

Preciado Park is one of about 20 locations in town, either sponsored by FYI or the city of Las Cruces, where 60 to 100 lunch bags are served each day. Other food service locations can be found in elementary schools, city parks, swimming pools and apartment complexes.

FYI is a non-profit organization that has been a major provider of no-cost social services and job opportunities in Las Cruces since 1977. They run a variety of programs including a local children's safehouse, school tutoring and family treatment services.

For information about FYI or food service locations near you, call (505) 522-4004.