(Photo: Public Schools of Petoskey, by Khalid Ibrahim, courtesy MSU Center for Regional Food Systems)
On Thursday, March 21, I got to see in one fell swoop the power of taking local projects out to the state level, and also the power of contacting legislators.
I’m hoping you will contact your legislators over the next few weeks during a critical early-budget phase for 10 Cents a Meal for School Kids & Farms. But first, a bit about my Thursday.
New 10 Cents a Meal Report to the Legislature Released
I was sitting at my computer at the Groundwork offices when I received news that the Michigan Department of Education’s new midyear report on its pilot 10 Cents a Meal for School Kids & Farms program was released to the legislature.
Groundwork coordinated the original, local pilot project in northwest Michigan that inspired the state legislature to turn 10 Cents into a state pilot. And now, with this report, we can see the impact it is having on schools, children, and farms in five regions of the state, where 57 school districts that serve 135,000 students this year received match incentive state grants to purchase Michigan-grown fruits, vegetables, and dry beans.
Look at how planting a seed can put powerful things in motion. The 57 grant-winning districts—from tiny Beaver Island in the north to Battle Creek, Ann Arbor, Jackson, and Flint—purchased 93 different fruits, vegetables, and dry beans grown by 143 farms in 38 counties so far this year, thanks to the state’s program. And of those 93 different food items, schools identified 67 produce items that they said they tried with their kids for the first time because of 10 Cents a Meal.
I worked to get word of the report out to as many people as I could.
Learn LOTS MORE about 10 Cents a Meal, and find out how you can help your school access 10 Cents a Meal funding at tencentsmichigan.org!
Lily Doher, the academy’s policy chair, disseminated talking points about 10 Cents a Meal to all of the registered dietitians, interns, and students who participated in the legislative day. And Lily learned about 10 Cents when Winona Bynum, executive director of the Detroit Food Policy Council and a partner with Groundwork in raising awareness about 10 Cents, gave a public talk about it.
The dietetics graduate student, unknown to me prior to her email, was brimming with excitement, telling me about sitting with her state representative from Detroit and how he was so interested in what he was hearing from the dietitians about 10 Cents that he sent an email to Detroit Public Schools right then and there to gauge interest in the program. The student, Kelsey Kasbaum, happened to have served as a dietetic intern last fall at Traverse City Area Public Schools, another grantee, so she was able to share personal stories about the 10 Cents impact from one of the schools where it all started.
Expansion Statewide—and to $2 Million?
For the record, Detroit Public Schools is interested in having the opportunity to participate in the program, as are other school districts in southeast Michigan and other parts of the state, including the Upper Peninsula. So far, only the west side of the Lower Peninsula, the Washtenaw region and Michigan’s Thumb region are part of the program.
State Sen. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, has heard the message. He chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on K-12 and the Michigan Department of Education, the key senate committee where the budget for 10 Cents is determined. Sen. Schmidt is championing an expansion of 10 Cents a Meal so that it would be available to schools statewide to compete for the grants. He’d also make it so that early childhood centers could compete for funding. And he supports an increase of funding for the pilot program from the current $575,000 to $2 million.
That’s a realistic increase to be able to expand the program so that more populous communities in the state can participate, and to meet the still unmet and growing demand in the existing regions. There were 121 applicants this year, for example, but funding enough for only 57 districts.
From Mancelona to Detroit, and School Cafeterias to Farms
There are loads of quotes in the new 10 Cents a Meal report to the legislature, but here’s one from rural Mancelona.
“Students are taking more fresh apples this school year and more importantly they aren’t throwing them away once they leave the register!” said Jessica Moody, Food Service Director for Mancelona Public Schools, in the 10 Cents a Meal legislative report. “The switch to all local apples (which taste better!) have made a huge difference.”
The School Nutrition Association of Michigan, the professional organization of school food service directors, and Michigan Farm Bureau also have provided statements of support. You can find them on the homepage of www.tencentsmichigan.org
So how about you? Contact your legislators and Gov. Whitmer!
It’s spring break until April 9 for legislators, and many of them are home in their districts and have scheduled coffee hours where constituents can come in and meet with them.
You have a brand new legislative report with the latest quotes and data about 10 Cents a Meal. Print it off and take it with you! It’s available to view, download, and share at www.tencentsmichigan.org on the Homepage, About page and Tools for Communities page.
Make sure your legislator knows about 10 Cents a Meal and its impact, just as Lily, Winona, and Kelsey did.
You can find your Michigan representative here and your senator here, just go to their web page to take a look at their calendars. And please keep me posted about your efforts and what you hear!
I’m sure Governor Gretchen Whitmer—who included funding for 10 Cents in her budget—would want to know your thoughts, too.
You can hear Sen. Schmidt talk with Groundwork about 10 Cents a Meal in a Facebook live interview at 3 p.m. Thursday, March 28.
And if you haven’t done so already, click here to join the growing list of nearly 450 individuals and organizations supporting 10 Cents a Meal, and working to make investing in local food for kids a part of Michigan’s identity.
Download a Copy of the 10 Cents a Meal Report
Build your message to your legislator with information and quotes from the midyear report. It's hot off the press!