State coalition names statewide winners in NM Grown Program.

The Golden Chile Award Program is a four-tiered recognition program – Seed, Sprout, Blossom and Golden Chile -- designed to acknowledge all levels of involvement in New Mexico’s local food movement. Farmington Municipal Schools is honored in the Blossom category (program is reaching maturity).

The New Mexico Grown Coalition, a network of public institutions, non-profit and community-based organizations and individuals working together to strengthen community food systems across New Mexico, announce the winners of this year’s Golden Chile Awards.

The coalition will honor 28 award winners – to include 11 preschools, 12 school districts, five senior center providers, as well as New Mexico farmers around the state during a virtual awards ceremony hosted September 14.

Four organizations earned the top award category of Golden Chile for their comprehensive local-food activities in this, the second year of an expanded awards program that recognizes efforts supporting good nutrition and New Mexico’s farming economy. Year two shows growth in the program as they honored 19 organizations with one senior center earning a Golden Chile award compared to this year’s 28 recipients.

“We are thrilled to see more organizations investing in locally grown food as a way to enhance nutrition for children and seniors as well as provide local marketplaces for New Mexico farmers,” said Kendal Chavez, Food and Hunger Coordinator for the Office of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Representatives from the Governor’s Office as well as the Departments of Agriculture, Health, Public Education, Early Childhood Education and Care, and Aging and Long-Term Services will recognize this year’s winners of the New Mexico Grown Program.

“We appreciate our schools and preschools providing activities like tastings and gardening lessons that give children opportunities to try new healthy food and shape lifelong habits for eating fresh, local produce,” said DAVID R. SCRASE, M.D., acting secretary of the Department of Health. “This is one way we can make a positive impact on obesity and hunger in New Mexico.”

For the first time, this year’s Golden Chile Awards Program is honoring all of the 55 farmers and local food hubs that are eligible to sell their food to New Mexico institutions. Farmers who applied for the Awards Program will receive an additional award based on such criteria as community education, food sales to local institutions, water and soil conservation practices, and sustainable and organic farming practices.

“Children learn best when they have a stomach filled with healthy food.  I am pleased that this program makes sure that school meals are fresh and local. This is a win-win for our farmers, children and families,” said Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus. 

Statewide, the New Mexico Grown program awarded its highest level of grants this school year -- $1.27 million for schools, $300,000 for preschools, and $530,000 for senior centers.  Organizations can use the funds to establish edible gardens and serve locally grown food in meals and snacks. 

“NM Grown has enhanced the quality of our senior center meals by increasing nutritional access to fresh fruits and vegetables,” said Aging & Long-Term Services Cabinet Secretary Katrina Hotrum-Lopez. “This not only meets the immediate food needs of our older adults, but also aids in decreasing food insecurity and combating chronic health issues that can be exacerbated by a lack of access to nutritional foods.”

The number of preschools connecting children to locally grown food has increased substantially since last year’s award ceremony honored one preschool. In addition, two preschools earned the top Golden Chile award for providing the following activities: establishing edible gardens, serving locally grown food, providing gardening lessons and nutrition education, offering culturally-appropriate nutrition and gardening lessons, and engaging staff, families and/or communities in Farm to Preschool programming.

The NM Grown Program ensures that farms and gardens supplying fresh produce for preschool, school, and senior meals follow current food safety practices, and all food is safe and traceable. Agencies administering state nutrition programs also created a standard procurement system to make it easier for farmers to sell their produce to local institutions.

“I have watched this program grow over the years to the magnitude it is today,” said Agriculture Secretary Jeff Witte. “Congratulations to the award winners, and thank you to our farmers and food hubs who supply the safe, healthy foods to our preschools, schools and senior centers. New Mexico has much to celebrate!”

Golden Chile (mature and fruitful program):

  • A Gold Star Academy & Child Development Center in Farmington
  • Family Resource Center in Deming
  • Graves Farm in Roswell
  • Roswell Independent School District
  • Sandoval County senior centers in Bernalillo, Corrales, Placitas, Jemez, Cuba, Peña Blanca Senior Centers and Meadowlark meal sites

Blossom (program is reaching maturity):

  • Albuquerque Public Schools
  • Bumble Bee Learning Center in Sunland Park
  • Dexter Public Schools
  • Elida Municipal Schools
  • Farmington Municipal Schools
  • Future Generations LLC in Clovis
  • Presbyterian Medical Services-Torrance County Children’s Services’ Head Start in Moriarty
  • Rio Arriba County Senior Program in Chama, Tierra Amarilla, El Rito, Coyote, Dixon, Española, Alcalde, Chimayo and Truchas
  • Serendipity Day School in Albuquerque
  • The Veggie Shack in Portales
  • Twin Rivers Farm in Roswell

Sprout (program is growing strong):

  • City of Las Vegas Senior Center Programs in Las Vegas, Pecos and San Miguel
  • Clovis Municipal Schools
  • Los Lunas Schools
  • Presbyterian Medical Centers-Torrance Senior Services in Torrance County

Seed (program has potential):

  • Alamogordo Public Schools
  • Ch’ooshgai Community School in Tohatchi
  • Count Your Blessings Preschool in Moriarty
  • Holy Cross Catholic School in Santa Cruz
  • Kids in Need of Supportive Services in Silver City
  • Las Vegas City Schools
  • MidWest NMCAP Socorro Head Start
  • New Beginnings in Farmington
  • Ramah Navajo Head Start in Ramah
  • Santo Domingo Senior Center in Santo Domingo Pueblo
  • West Las Vegas School District