Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a landmark bill into law on July 13, 2021. The $17.1 billion budget will directly benefit children attending K-12 schools in Michigan. It’s the largest single-year School Aid Fund budget ever passed by the state and includes funding for 10 Cents a Meal for Michigan’s Kids & Farms. Her signature more than doubles the funding for the program – from $2 million in 2020-21 to $5 million in 2021-22.
“The $5-million funding is a testament to Michigan legislators’ and the governor’s understanding of the central strategic value of 10 Cents a Meal,” said Diane Conners, senior policy specialist at Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities. The nonprofit organization is a Voices for Healthy Kids grantee for advocacy around the program.
10 Cents A Meal for Michigan’s Kids & Farms (10 Cents a Meal) is a state-funded program providing schools and early care and education centers (ECEs) with matching incentive funding up to 10 cents per meal to purchase and serve Michigan-grown fruits, vegetables and legumes. The grant has gone from a $250,000 state pilot program in 2016 to finally being available to applicants statewide for the 2020-2021 school year, and this latest investment affirms the importance of 10 Cents a Meal in providing fresh, healthy, local fruits, vegetables and dry beans for Michigan’s schoolchildren.
Schools and early childhood settings are where children get up to two and sometimes even three meals a day. 10 Cents a Meal enhances those meals and can support Michigan’s emerging local food system infrastructure, which delivers products from local farms to local customers. The value of building that infrastructure, beyond creating more local jobs and providing the freshest nutrition and flavor for children, became clear during the COVID-19 crisis when national food supply chains faltered.
“Providing healthy meals for children and supporting our state’s growers is a win-win for Michigan,” Dr. Michael Rice, Michigan State Superintendent, said. “The 10 Cents a Meal program helps meet a Top 10 state strategic education goal of improving the health, safety and wellness of learners.”
Sen. Wayne Schmidt, chair of the Senate K-12 and Michigan Department of Education appropriations subcommittee, served as a key champion of 10 Cents a Meal and navigated the program through the budget process.
“Since its inception, I have been an avid supporter of the 10 Cents a Meal program,” Schmidt said. “I have supported investments in the program during every budget cycle and I passionately believe it is a crucial tool that helps ensure students can focus on their education while also receiving a healthy and balanced diet of Michigan-grown products.”
Conners said a dime makes a real difference in the lives of young learners and their growing brains and bodies. She’s elated to see the program not only continue, but expand to support even more children and families.
“That this innovative program can be a part of this unprecedented investment in our children also is a testament to the resilience of school food staff and early childhood education centers, and all of those dedicated individuals who tirelessly work for the benefit of children across the state,” Conners explained. “Healthy, locally grown foods help build the minds and bodies of our children, while the purchases support family farms and help to build the infrastructure of our local food supply.”