Program boosts amount of local fruits and vegetables in school cafeterias

10 Cents a Meal program preliminary report indicates 50,000 kids in west Michigan, dozens of businesses benefiting from program.

Cover of 10 Cents a Meal report.

Cover of 10 Cents a Meal report.

In fiscal year 2017, Michigan’s legislature appropriated $250,000 to pilot a 10 Cents a Meal program. Michigan is one of four states (including Washington D.C.) in the nation to enact this legislation. The pilot program was implemented in Prosperity Regions 2 and 4 on the west side of the state.

The 10 Cents a Meal program offers up to 10 cents per meal match incentive funds to school food service programs that purchase Michigan-grown and processed fruits and vegetables. The goals behind the program were to improve the intake of nutrient-dense foods for school children and to invest in Michigan agriculture and the local food supply chain. Of the appropriated $250,000, $210,000 will be spent on Michigan-grown produce for school meals. The rest will be used to cover administrative expenses.

The matching funds were awarded through a competitive application process. Of the 52 districts that applied, 16 were funded, located in nine counties. The funds are intended to be used from September of 2016 through September of 2017.

Now that the pilot program is midway through its pilot year, a report cataloging impacts through December of 2016 has been released. Some of the highlights are below.

  • 48,000 students have been impacted
  • 86 different Michigan farms received business from the pilot program
  • The 86 farms are located in 28 different Michigan counties
  • An additional 16 Michigan food businesses (such as distributors and processors) were also impacted
  • Students were served 49 different types of Michigan produce
  • School meal programs increased the number of new vegetables and fruits that they were serving
  • Approximately $114,000 was spent on local fruit, vegetables and legumes (this is preliminary data)

Since these incentive funds must be matched by school food programs in their purchasing, this means that $228,000 was spent on Michigan-grown produce (through December 2016). Upon completion of the pilot program, $420,000 will have been reinvested into Michigan’s agricultural industry.

As legislators go through the next budget process, it is possible that this program will continue and/or expand. To read more about the impacts of the first few months of this pilot program, including stories from food service directors, farmers and food businesses, see the full report.

The passing and implementation of this legislation was a statewide collaborative effort. After the legislation passed, the team that implemented this pilot program included: The Michigan Department of Education, Networks Northwest, The Prosperity Region office in Region 2, Grand Valley Metro Council in Prosperity Region 4, the MSU Center for Regional Food Systems, of which Michigan State University Extension is an affiliate, Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities, and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

MSU Extension supports farm to school efforts to encourage healthy and fresh school meal options for Michigan students and a thriving economy for Michigan’s food producers and businesses. For more information about starting a farm to school program in your community, visit www.cultivatemichigan.org or www.mifarmtoschool.msu.edu.