10 Cents a Meal for Michigan’s Kids & Farms was restored in late July by the state legislature and the governor, providing retroactive support to eligible schools for serving locally grown fruits and vegetables to students during the last school year.
That was after a roller-coaster year that saw funding stalled, most recently due to COVID-19 and the resulting state budget crisis.
10 Cents a Meal was the only addition to the state School Aid Budget supplemental bill. All other changes were cuts. Look at the table in this Senate Fiscal Agency analysis to see how extraordinary it is that 10 Cents a Meal was funded.
This is not an expansion (but we’re still working on that—see below). The program was restored to $575,000 and is available for schools in the regions where it was available before, about half the counties in the state.
However, with the dire state fiscal crisis as a result of the COVID pandemic, the last-minute inclusion in the supplemental budget was seen by many Lansing observers as truly remarkable. It shows the state is affirming the value of supporting schools in purchasing locally grown produce for our children in school meals. And it provides a path forward. In fact, the bill’s language removed the word “pilot” from “pilot project.”
Sen. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, who has led the way on 10 Cents a Meal funding, said he still wants to expand the program statewide. Restoring it to the pre-existing funding level for now preserves the program infrastructure so it can be expanded as soon as possible, he said.
The Michigan Department of Education, which administers the program, moved quickly to alert eligible school districts.
But it’s one budget down, one to go.
Michigan legislators reconvene Sept. 1 and face the daunting task of developing a new budget for the upcoming fiscal and school year by Oct. 1—just one month’s time.
We must see this program continue and, for the first time, be expanded so that it is available to schools statewide. 10 Cents a Meal supports schools in buying locally grown fruits and vegetables, meaning fresh food on the plates of our children and needed income for our family farms.
There are schools statewide that want the opportunity to be a part of this program.
It has never been available, for example, in the tri-county Detroit region—where 40% of Michigan’s children ages 6 to 17 live. Detroit Public Schools Community District, which wants 10 Cents a Meal to help it buy fresh produce for its children and to support Michigan’s farms, has served nearly 2 million meals to children just since school buildings were closed in mid-March. That’s a lot of meals for children, and it could mean a lot of dollars for our economy.
Groundwork Center has created a sign-on letter that it will send to legislative leaders, Senate and House Appropriations Committee members, and the governor, thanking them for supplemental funding for the 2020 school year and urging new funding for the 2021 school year.
And then there’s the state House election.
Every seat in the Michigan House of Representatives is up for election, and some races will be decided in the August 4 primary.
Make sure your candidates know about this program. They love learning about it, as you’ll see below.
Check out this brief one-pager, and share it with a candidate or a friend.
And visit Groundwork’s 10 Cents a Meal advocacy page often to see quick and easy opportunities to email candidates about the program before the Aug. 4 primary and later for the November election.