Earlier this month, Gov. Whitmer handed out her state budget vetoes. Of the items cut was the 10 Cents a Meal for School Kids & Farms program- a nationally respected program that helps Michigan schools source healthy, Michigan-grown food for their cafeterias.
The twin pillars of the program- childhood health and the economic stability of family farms—have led to strong bipartisan support thus far for 10 Cents a Meal. Until the veto, the legislature planned to expand program eligibility statewide with a $2 million allocation (up from $575,000 last year) within the School Aid Budget. Gov. Whitmer also originally supported 10 Cents a Meal in her campaign.
10 Cents a Meal in Action
Nearly 60 school districts around the state participated in the 10 Cents a Meal grant match program in the 2018-2019 school year. One of those schools was the Dexter School District in Southeast Michigan. Jennifer Mattison, Food Service Director at Dexter Community Schools says that 10 Cents a Meal is a “fabulous program that allows our school to include more expensive fruit and vegetable options, like Michigan cherries, year round. Because of our more consistent and diverse local produce offerings, students are more excited about the food and are now asking which products are from Michigan. 10 Cents a Meal has also been wonderful in enabling us to work with new farms we weren’t able to in the past and has been a springboard for us purchasing other local products, like protein and grains.”
Schools across the state report similar experience. In the annual 10 Cents a Meal survey, school food service directors noted an increase in student excitement around school meals, more students consuming fresh fruit and vegetables and a decrease in food wasted during meal times.
In addition to benefits for schools and kids, the 10 Cents a Meal Program provides a great service to Michigan farmers. As the program is an incentive match grant, it doubles a school’s spending power in the local farm economy. Steve Bardenhagen, of Bardenhagen Berries in Leelanau County, says “the 10 Cent program is a great opportunity for farmers to move some additional produce locally and help our young students. We sold 10,000 pounds through Leelanau Fruit to Farm to Freezer for schools. It is just a great deal all around.”
How to take Action
10 Cents a Meal for School Kids and Farms is a win-win program that supports the health of our most vulnerable population, children, and the economic viability of one of our states most important industries, agriculture. If you want to see it added back into the budget, contact your legislators. Ask them to ask legislative leaders—the Senate Majority Leader, Speaker of the House, and Appropriations Committee members and chairs in both chambers — to support a supplemental budget that includes:
• Restoring legislature’s $2 million in funding for 10 Cents a Meal in the School Aid Budget
• Expanding 10 Cents eligibility statewide
• Adding in eligibility for sponsors of early child care centers
Legislator Contact Information:
Additional Action Items
1. Complete this short, 14 question survey to help TLD and Groundwork Center evaluate our communication efforts for 10 Cents so far. We would love to hear what you think we are doing well and, just as importantly, how you think we can improve. Completing the survey will enter you to win $50!
2. Sign up as a supporter of 10 Cents a Meal here, and encourage others in your community and in organizations that you know to do the same.
3. Read this post from October 1, which includes sample messaging you can use to contact your legislators and the governor to restore funding this year for 10 Cents a Meal. Be positive. The Governor, House, and Senate all originally included 10 Cents in their budgets. Thank them and ask them to restore it. Please let us know when you do, and what you hear.
For additional information on the vetos and 10 Cents a Meal, please go here.
Kelly Wilson, RDN is TLD’s Director of Community Partners and a Registered Dietitian. She is passionate about supporting family farmers and the health of future generations through programs like 10 Cents a Meal.
Taste the Local Difference’s communication and outreach efforts about 10 Cents a Meal has been made possible by the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan.