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How Ten Cents a Meal Can Change the Lives of Michigan Children

by Kelly Wilson

Michigan is the second most agriculturally diverse state and a national leader in the cultivation of apples, asparagus, blueberries, tart cherries, green beans, dry beans, potatoes and squash. Despite our diverse and rich produce production, most Michiganders fall short of recommended fruit and vegetable consumption and over 30% of Michigan children are overweight or obese.


Eating fresh fruits and vegetables is the cornerstone of good health and exposure to produce at an early age can increase their acceptance and consumption across the lifespan. Recognizing this, a statewide pilot program, 10 Cents a Meal for School Kids & Farms, is supporting schools in infusing more fresh, Michigan grown produce into their menus.


The 10 Cents a Meal for School Kids & Farms program is a state pilot providing up to 10 cents per meal in match funds to schools for the purchase of Michigan fruits, vegetables, and dry beans. As most schools only have $1.20 to spend on school meals, this extra funding goes a long way in increasing their purchasing power. Now in its third year, the program is reaching students in 57 districts across prosperity regions 2, 4, 6, 8 and 9. The U.P., Northeast, Mid, and Southeast Michigan are currently not eligible for the program.
 
Data from the pilot is shows positive impacts across several sectors. Food service directors are seeing increased meal participation, decreased food waste and increased student acceptance of fruits, vegetables, and beans. Students are engaging in farm to school activities, trying new foods, and asking for more fresh produce on their menus. The program is also supporting the local food system and stimulating economic development. Last year, the 10 Cents program put $630,000 directly into the hands of Michigan growers and food companies.

To ensure all children and farmers have the opportunity to benefit from this program, the 10 Cents a Meal program team is advocating for eligibility to be moved statewide and program funding to be increased to $2 million. If you feel this program is important, you can help 10 Cents a Meal for School Kids and Farms expand by:

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Kelly Wilson, RDN, is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and the Director of Community Partners for Taste the Local Difference, Michigan’s local food promotion organization.


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