FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
LANSING, Mich. (Sept. 30, 2021) - The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) has announced 229 grantees for the initial round of 10 Cents A Meal for Michigan's Kids & Farms grants for the 2021-22 school year. The state-funded farm-to-institution program provides matching incentive funding up to 10 cents per meal to purchase and serve Michigan-grown fruits, vegetables, and legumes. With this first round announcement, the program will serve a total enrollment of nearly 554,000 children in the school, early childhood education and after school settings across the state, more than half of whom are eligible for free or reduced lunch.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed the $17.1 billion K-12 budget into law in June. The bill accounts for the largest single-year School Aid Fund budget ever passed by the state, which included funding for 10 Cents a Meal at $5 million, more than doubling the funding from $2 million in 2020-21.
“The 10 Cents a Meal program feeds our kids and supports family farmers and growers. Under the education bill I signed in June, which made the largest investment in education in state history, we more than doubled funding for this program that offers healthy, affordable meals to our kids,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “As we continue our economic jumpstart, we have to make sure everyone has the resources and support they need to succeed. I am grateful to the Michigan Department of Education and legislators for coming together to get this done for our kids.”
Schools and early childhood settings are where children get up to two and sometimes even three meals a day. 10 Cents a Meal enhances those meals and also can support Michigan’s emerging local food system infrastructure that delivers products from local farms to local customers, which has proven to be all the more important during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Expanded access to fresh fruits and vegetables supports the health of our learners,” said State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice. “Because of 10 Cents a Meal for Michigan’s Kids & Farms, schools can welcome their students back into school buildings this fall with fresher menus that will help them to be healthy and to learn during these challenging times. Early childhood education centers can help our youngest school-age children begin healthy eating habits for a lifetime, and Michigan farms and our local food supply chain can be strengthened and assured of market demand. Once again, 10 Cents a Meal is a win in so many ways.”
Grantees say that 10 Cents a Meal provides them much-needed flexibility to try new items with children and engage them in healthy eating within tight food service budgets.
"The School Nutrition Association of Michigan (SNAM) applauds the expansion of 10 Cents a Meal for Michigan’s Kids & Farms,” said SNAM president-elect Jennifer Mattison, who also serves as Director of Food & Nutrition Services at Dexter Community Schools & Washtenaw ISD. “This important program helps school food service staff nourish our children so that they are really ready to learn. 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 innovative program has gone from a modest state pilot program in northwest and west Michigan in 2016 to finally being available to applicants statewide for the 2020-2021 school year, and this latest investment from the state affirms the importance of 10 Cents a Meal in providing fresh, healthy, local fruits, vegetables, and dry beans for Michigan’s students and children in early care settings.
“I have witnessed firsthand how important the 10 Cents a Meal program is for students, and it has been one of my top priorities to assist with the growth of this program,” said Senator Wayne Schmidt (R-Traverse City), who chairs the Senate K-12 and Department of Education Appropriations Subcommittee. “Making sure students have proper nutrition from fruits and vegetables grown by local Michigan farmers has proven to be a successful tool in helping students remain healthy and focused on their schoolwork.”
According to the 2020-2021 preliminary evaluation results from the Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems (MSU CRFS), nearly 64% of all grantees (91 of 143) reported that 10 Cents grants allowed them to try new products in their food service program that they would not have otherwise tried. The top ten new Michigan-grown foods reported by food service directors who utilize the grant included, in order: apples, asparagus, blueberries, dry beans/legumes, cherries, carrots, potatoes, lettuce, summer squash, and root vegetables.
“Providing healthy, nutritious, wholesome, and affordable food is the top priority of Michigan farmers. 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,” said Ernie Birchmeier, Manager of Michigan Farm Bureau's Center for Commodities and Farm and Industry Relations. “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.”
The program is open to school districts (public, public school academies, or private), and non-school sponsors of USDA Child Nutrition Programs such as residential childcare institutions (RCCIs), after-school programs, and child care centers participating in the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), National School Lunch Program (NSLP) or the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP).
The $5-million funding is a testament to the central strategic value of 10 Cents a Meal, said Diane Conners, senior policy specialist at Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities.
“That this innovative program can be a part of this unprecedented investment in our children also is a testament to the resilience of school food staff and early childhood education centers, and all of those dedicated individuals who tirelessly work for the benefit of children across the state,” she said. “Healthy, locally grown foods help build the minds and bodies of our children, while the purchases support family farms and help to build the infrastructure of our local food supply.”
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 is the evaluation partner and supports trainings; and Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities, which conducts stakeholder interviews, communications, and outreach.
Wendy Crowley, Michigan Department of Education, [email protected]
Nathan Medina, Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities, [email protected]
Colleen Matts, MSU Center for Regional Food Systems, [email protected]