585,000 Michigan Children Have Better Access to Fresh Food Thanks to a State-Funded Grant Program

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By Kaishi Chhabra

April 21, 2022

’10 Cents A Meal for Michigan’s Kids & Farms’ helps schools and early childhood education centers buy Michigan-grown fruits, vegetables and legumes, with grants of up to 10 cents per meal. 

Need to Know

  • The Michigan Department of Education announced an additional 29 grantees for a program helping kids eat Michigan farm-fresh food.
  • Among the recipients are Cheboygan Area Schools, Freeland Community School District, Daily Shepherd Child Care Center, Boys And Girls Club Benton Harbor, Steepletown Neighborhood Services, and more.
  • Funding comes from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s 2021 School Aid Fund budget.

MICHIGAN— Ten cents may not sound like much, but it’s no small potatoes when it comes to feeding Michigan’s kids.

Most children in Michigan get at least two meals a day, sometimes even three, from school districts and early childhood settings. To improve the nutrition in each bite, the 10 Cents A Meal for Michigan’s Kids & Farms program provides matching grants for the cost of Michigan-grown fruits, vegetables, and legumes, up to 10 cents per meal. And it’s just expanded to include even more little Michiganders.

“One of my proudest accomplishments during my legislative tenure is the growth of 10 Cents a Meal, especially here in Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula,” said state Sen. Wayne Schmidt (R-Traverse City). “This program is critically important in getting fresh Michigan fruits and vegetables to our students.”

Last week, the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) reported that the farm-to-institution program awarded an additional 29 grantees, including public schools and childcare centers in Northern Michigan and other regions throughout the state.

Supported in part by the Michigan Farm Bureau, 10 Cents A Meal is also investing in Michigan agriculture and the state’s local food economy.

Nathan Medina, policy specialist with Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities – a key MDE partner on the program – said the economic ripple effect of the $5 million grant will enhance and strengthen the local food system economy at every step of the process, from planting, to harvesting, distributing, cooking, and finally ending up on a child’s plate.

“Expansion of the incentive program is a 360-degree win for Michigan farmers, distributors, and food service programs—and of course, the children who get to enjoy fresh, delicious, local produce,” Medina told The ‘Gander in an email. “Building the resilience and economic viability of our local food system is essential after the breakdowns in the supply chain as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and as fuel, transportation and commodity prices rise.”

Started as a regional pilot program in 2016, the grant became available to applicants statewide for the 2020-21 school year. In June 2021, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the $17 billion K-12 budget into law that accounted for the largest single-year School Aid Fund budget ever passed by the state. This included funding for 10 Cents a Meal at $5 million, which was more than double the funding from the previous fiscal year at $2 million. 

In October, MDE announced 229 grantees for the 10 Cents A Meal grants for the 2021-22 school year. The grant is currently in its second year of statewide availability with a total of 257 grantees, representing over 585,000 children who live in 57 of Michigan’s 83 counties. The grantees come from all over the state, stretching across Southeastern Michigan communities to the Upper Peninsula.

Michigan Farm News reported that according to the most recent evaluation of the program, nearly 64% of all grantees reported 10 Cents grants allowed them to try new products in their food service program that they would not have otherwise tried.

“Providing healthy, nutritious, wholesome, and affordable food is the top priority of Michigan farmers,” Ernie Birchmeier, manager of MFB’s Center for Commodities and Farm and Industry Relations told Farm News. “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.”


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