Who’s Feeding Our Kids: Expanding 10 Cents a Meal’s Reach to Child Care Providers

By: Melanie Tran 

On the road that leads from the farm to the tray, we encounter many folks along the way who contribute to feeding our kids. Who’s Feeding Our Kids is a series where we explore different people and organizations along the food system who are working to feed our kids, and support the 10 Cents a Meal Program. These are some of their stories.

This story features the Association for Child Development, a Child and Adult Care Food Program Sponsor, and Nicole Coddington, a child care provider who participated in 10 Cents a Meal through the Association for Child Development.

Little hands reaching for raspberries and blackberries right from the bush, and “oo’s” and “ah’s” heard from her home garden are just some of the sights and sounds child care provider, Nicole Coddington experienced while participating in the 10 Cents a Meal program through her Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) sponsor, the Association for Child Development (ACD)

“We saw an opportunity to give providers an incentive to serve fresh fruits, vegetables and legumes while also supporting our Michigan farmers,” said Denise Meyer, Executive Director of the organization. The Association for Child Development is a sponsor of the CACFP focusing on sponsoring child care programs across Michigan and Illinois. CACFP is a USDA program that helps offset the costs of feeding eligible children or adults while they are receiving care in different settings. For children, that’s often in child care centers, through school or community programs, or in child care homes with licensed professionals. The CACFP is one of the USDA’s Child Nutrition Programs that makes grantees eligible for participating in 10 Cents a Meal.

As a CACFP sponsor, ACD’s primary role is to provide administrative support to their providers participating in the program, and to “train and educate parents and caregivers to teach healthy eating habits to last a lifetime” Denise shared. Through a partnership with the Michigan Department of Education, ACD has been piloting the 10 Cents a Meal program among its child care providers. Developing systems for outreach, training, and providing resources to help providers be successful with CACFP and 10 Cents a Meal has been a big part of their pilot. 

Providers already include fruits and vegetables for reimbursable CACFP meals and snacks they serve and are reimbursed with federal funds, but with the 10 Cents a Meal pilot they are eligible for additional money from the state of Michigan when they make those fruits and vegetables Michigan-grown.  

Buying and serving local food, gardening with children, and providing opportunities for nutrition, food, and agriculture education are the three main components of farm to early care and education (ECE), and are strategies that can enrich children’s learning experience and equip them with those “healthy habits to last a lifetime” that Denise mentioned.

Getting the garden beds ready in the spring!

Photo by Nicole Coddington

Those local fruits and vegetables can even come right from on-site gardens where children can be a part of the growing process and have the opportunity to touch and explore nature and food. “The children love to go out and pick the food and watch it grow,” said Nicole. “They loved seeing how things were being integrated into the food. Seeing it picked in the garden and then incorporated into the snacks and meals— it came full circle.” 

For the children and families Nicole works with, serving local food for the children to eat during the day became a family affair too. “I ended up having parents bring produce to me that I could use as donated produce.“ Parents brought in everything from rhubarb and apples, to cucumbers from their own gardens or purchased at the farmers market. 

This pilot has offered the opportunity for participating child care providers to receive more money on top of their CACFP reimbursement for including Michigan-grown fruits, vegetables, and dry beans in the meals and snacks for the children they care for. “Not only has 10 Cents a Meal assisted in alleviating some financial burden of rising food costs, but it has also resulted in children being exposed to different fruits, vegetables, and beans that they might not have tried otherwise,” said Denise. “It aligns beautifully with our mission to teach children healthy eating habits to last a lifetime.” 

Learn More

To learn more about the Association for Child Development, please visit their website here. For more success stories, visit tencentsmichigan.org.

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Farm to Early Care and Education Specialist, Melanie Tran, writes from Grand Rapids, Michigan, where they support the 10 Cents a Meal Program through Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities, outreach and communications partner on the 10 Cents a Meal implementation team.

Take Action

As the 10 Cents a Meal for Michigan’s Kids and Farms Program expands, feedback and data collected from grantees continues to shape the implementation of the program. Adding Michigan-grown fruits, vegetables, and dry beans to menus for children looks different in every district across the state and the implementation team has been paying attention to the details that make the program and other food service programs work. Through data, they have been able to connect with the people and systems along the road that contribute to moving farm fresh food to the table. 

Since the program’s beginning in 2016, the 10 Cents a Meal for Michigan’s Kids and Farms program has grown and produced quite an impact on Michigan's children and agricultural economy. As the program expands, it is important that the language in the state budget addresses the needs of all those that come together to feed our children and grow our food. To learn about more ways to support the program please visit us HERE. 



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