In Muskegon, a city-owned, all-season farmers market building is about to also become a food hub—a place where farmers can bring or combine their products for wholesale customers. Project manager Marty Gerencer said 10 Cents a Meal* was a catalyst in helping to launch it this spring.
A coalition of groups that include the city, community foundation, and schools had secured various grants to support the growth of farm to school activities and to conduct feasibility studies for a food hub. When six school districts in Muskegon County won 10 Cents a Meal grants, she said it made people realize it was time to stop talking and act. “Once state funding came in the door, it was like, ok, there is money to buy fresh product,” she said. “It was like the light went on.” Dan Gorman, Food Service Director for Montague Area Public Schools and Whitehall District Schools, is organizing orders from as many of the 16 districts in Muskegon that want to participate in purchasing from the hub. They will start small, likely with two products they know farmers will have this spring and then expand in the summer and fall. Cherry Capital Foods, the local foods distributor from Traverse City, is also involved for deliveries. “If every school in Muskegon County could be in the 10 Cents Program, the goal with the food hub is that every January we could do a request for produce from our local growers for the following school year. We could say what type of produce is needed and what volume we would use per month, and see what kind of price that would bring. This would give us a consistent supply of great local products and give farmers a stable market,” Gorman said. The state’s support also re-affirmed for Muskegon officials the merits of agriculture for community economic development, Gerencer said.
*Michigan’s 10 Cents A Meal for School Kids & Farms is a successful state pilot that provides schools with up to 10 cents a meal in match funding to purchase and serve Michigan-grown fruits, vegetables, and legumes. Originally a $250,000 state pilot in prosperity regions 2 and 4, lawmakers and Gov. Rick Snyder expanded 10 Cents A Meal for the 2017-2018 school year to also include prosperity region 9 with an increased budget of $375,000. The is one in a series of stories documenting 10 Cents A Meal for School Kids & Farms.