Annual Legislative Report Reveals Impacts of Innovative Statewide Farm To School Program

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

LANSING, MI (Nov 23, 2021) - Michigan students and young children were were introduced to up to 32 new types of vegetables and 14 new types of fruit during the last school year thanks to the state’s expanded 10 Cents a Meal for Michigan’s Kids & Farms (10 Cents a Meal) program, according to the annual legislative report recently published by the Michigan Department of Education (MDE).

10 Cents a Meal program matches what schools spend on Michigan-grown fruits, vegetables, and legumes with grants of up to 10 cents per meal up to 10 cents per meal to purchase and serve Michigan-grown fruits, vegetables, and dry beans. In 2020-2021 -- the period covered by the report --  the program was available for the first time to schools statewide and also to early childhood education centers. Grants were awarded to 143 school districts and early childhood sites, serving nearly 440,000 children in 50 of Michigan’s 83 counties.

The program had been operating in pilot regions for four years before the Michigan Legislature and Gov. Whitmer funded it at $2 million for the statewide expansion, up from $575,000 in the last two pilot years. Legislators expanded it yet again for the current 2021-2022 school year, more than doubling it to $5 million. New grantees hailed from the metro-Detroit region to the Upper Peninsula, both regions that had not been included during the pilot years. 

“Providing healthy meals for children and supporting our state’s growers is a win-win for Michigan,” State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice said in the report. “The 10 Cents a Meal program helps meet a Top 10 state strategic education goal of improving the health, safety, and wellness of learners. I want to thank the legislature and governor for expanding the program to benefit many more communities across our state.”

The purpose of 10 Cents a Meal is two-fold: To improve daily nutrition and eating habits for children through the school and early childhood setting, and to invest in Michigan agriculture and related local food business economy. The report, required by the legislature annually, analyzes purchasing data, evaluation survey results, and stakeholder interviews and offers a wealth of information about the state’s farm to school incentive program. 

According to the report, 58% of grantees reported that local food purchasing helped their food service program during the coronavirus pandemic. Despite COVID-related challenges that food service programs faced beginning in 2020, a whopping 81% of current grantees indicated they would apply for 10 Cents a Meal again.

According to the report:

  • 84% of grantees said 10 Cents a Meal allowed them to offer more local fruits to students and children. 
  • 73% and 71% of grantees, respectively, said it increased fruit consumption and vegetable consumption among the students and children they serve. 
  • 79% reported that it allowed them to offer more local vegetables. 
  • 65% said it helped them to identify new Michigan-grown fruits, vegetables, and legumes that are accepted/eaten by the children they serve.

The School Nutrition Association of Michigan, the professional organization for the state’s school food service staff, provided a statement applauding the expansion of 10 Cents a Meal for Michigan’s Kids & Farms. 

“This important program helps school food service staff nourish our children so that they are really ready to learn,” the association said. “It also helps our food service professionals to invest in Michigan’s economy and strengthen local food supply chains, which we have found--as a result of COVID--to often be more reliable than national food supply chains. Locally grown food for Michigan’s children makes all the sense in the world.”

The potential for market expansion for Michigan’s farmers and food processors and distributors is also evident. One distributor reported that 10 Cents a Meal spurred it in 2021 to contract with farmers for 50,000 pounds of broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots, compared to just 5,000 pounds the previous year. The distributor created a new product called the “Michigan Medley” to meet the increased demand from 10 Cents a Meal food service needs.

Additionally, grantees from across the state reported that 10 Cents a Meal gave them the opportunity to strengthen existing relationships with farmers or local food suppliers and to create new ones. According to invoices, grantees purchased 63 fruits, vegetables, and legumes grown by 109 farms in 40 counties, and impacted an additional 39 businesses such as distributors, processors, packers, and food hubs.

“Providing healthy, nutritious, wholesome, and affordable food is the top priority of Michigan farmers,” the Michigan Farm Bureau said in a statement for the report. “It’s why they invest their time, money and sweat equity every day in the fields growing crops, fruits, and vegetables and in the barns caring for their dairy herd and livestock. The 10 Cents a Meal program further enhances agriculture’s ability to meet the nutritional needs of our communities, especially children. We look forward to continued growth and opportunities to contribute and collaborate as we feed our consumers and enhance our agriculture industry.”

Schools, early childhood education centers and other eligible grantees who participate in federal Child Nutrition programs typically use their existing federal dollars for food purchasing as their match funding, meaning the program leverages federal dollars already being spent in Michigan.

Find the full 2020-21 legislative report and those from previous years here: https://www.tencentsmichigan.org/about

MDE is assisted in the program by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, which provides expertise on Michigan-grown products; the MSU Center for Regional Food Systems, which conducts monthly food service director surveys and other evaluation support and trainings; and Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities, which conducts stakeholder interviews and provides outreach and communications support, including production of the legislative report. 

To learn more, please visit www.tencentsmichigan.org

For the list of 2021-22 award grantees, visit https://www.tencentsmichigan.org/about.

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Program Contacts:

Wendy Crowley, Michigan Department of Education, [email protected]

Nathan Medina, Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities, [email protected]

Colleen Matts, Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems, [email protected]

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