Every. Single. County.
More than 610 individuals and nearly 200 organizations from across the state put their names to a sign-on letter urging Michigan legislators and Governor Gretchen Whitmer to expand 10 Cents a Meal for Michigan’s Kids & Farms in the upcoming 2021 state budget. That budget will be decided by Oct. 1. The signers come from every county in the state.
The letter asked elected officials to include $2 million in funding for the program—which provides matching grants for schools to purchase Michigan produce for school meals—and to make it available for the first time to school districts statewide and to early childcare centers.
Signers included the School Nutrition Association of Michigan, the Michigan Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Michigan Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, the Michigan Vegetable Council, Michigan Famers Market Association, Michigan League for Public Policy, Healthy Kids Healthy Michigan, Michigan Inter-tribal Council, Authority Health MOTION Coalition, Detroit Food Policy Council, Crim Fitness Foundation in Flint, Northeast Michigan Food & Farming Network, Northwest Michigan Food & Farming Network, Local Food Alliance of Northern Michigan, and Western UP Food Systems Council.
Also included were Fair Food Network and other food security and anti-hunger organizations, farms, food processors, food distributors, and parents. Schools signed on from southeast Michigan to the Upper Peninsula, and from urban areas like Flint and Detroit to rural regions throughout the state.
The letter, which Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities submitted on Sept. 1 as the legislature reconvened, also extended thanks to elected officials for restoring previous-level funding for 10 Cents a Meal in the recent supplemental budget bill passed for the 2019-2020 budget.
The supplemental bill preserved the infrastructure of this important program, and it retroactively provided critical support for schools in their heroic efforts over the past year to feed Michigan’s children in school and then at home when COVID-19 hit and caused financial hardships for so many families. The supplemental bill did not, however, expand the program statewide.
“My goal, first and foremost, was to keep [the program] alive,” said Sen. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, who has been the key legislative champion for 10 Cents a Meal. “We got that accomplished. As the old adage says: ‘Live to fight another day.’ And that is what we are going to do.”
Advocates in Michigan are now working hard to make sure that healthy school food for the state’s children—food that is locally grown and benefits the economy—is a priority in the 2021 budget.
The Michigan League for Public Policy argues 10 Cents a Meal is needed statewide now, more than ever—and that it is cost-effective in a time of budget crisis.
“The program provides a huge bang for our buck at a time when every penny counts,” the League said in a blog it posted recently. “Our policymakers have to stretch severely limited resources to meet unprecedented health, educational and economic needs right now, and 10 Cents a Meal serves all three purposes for the low cost of one dime for every meal served to a Michigan child.”
The Detroit Food Policy Council agrees, and wants it to be available for the first time in Detroit.
“The pandemic has brought into focus exactly how important school meals are to children and their families,” said Amy Kuras, Research and Policy Program Manager for the Detroit Food Policy Council (DFPC). “Detroit Public Schools Community District has served almost 2 million meals since schools closed. We can all agree that anything that gives the district more flexibility to provide healthy, nutritious food to children is essential in these times. We need 10 Cents a Meal here in Detroit.”
Sen. Schmidt said a variety of factors will impact the program’s future funding, including the economy and federal funds that Congress is debating for states in the face of COVID.
“We’ve seen the success of the program,” he said. “We know the importance of nutrition for school-age children, and we know the importance of Michigan agriculture. When you can blend the two together, it equals success. We want to continue that.
“The COVID crisis has highlighted health care needs,” he added. “Obviously, one of the best ways to deal with any health challenge is good nutrition. It’s fresh fruits and vegetables, and Michigan has a lot of them.”