This week our friends at the Michigan Department of Education did a momentous thing: They've asked 166 school districts to apply for funds to buy locally grown fruits and vegetables for our kids' tummies-and for their brains and their health.
This innovative new "10 Cents a Meal" pilot program, which also invests in the state's agricultural economy, is built on a model that we at Groundwork coordinated here in northwest Lower Michigan-and there are important things you can do right now to help make it a success:
Make sure each school district knows about this opportunity.
The funding is for this upcoming school year, so there's a whirlwind turn-around for schools to apply. In fact, the deadline is 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 23. If you know of schools in the counties listed below, or know people who live in those areas-please spread the word.
School districts in these counties are eligible:
Northwest Lower Michigan: Antrim, Benzie, Charlevoix, Emmet, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Leelanau, Manistee, Missaukee, and Wexford.
West Michigan: Allegan, Barry, Ionia, Kent, Lake, Mason, Mecosta, Montcalm, Muskegon, Newaygo, Oceana, Osceola, and Ottawa counties
Lend the school a hand if you can.
Food service directors at the 166 schools received an email from MDE on Tuesday afternoon. They need to cite educational activities their schools plan to support their efforts-things like school gardens, or fun taste tests or learning fractions by cutting apples. Parents and community volunteers can help schools with these activities. If you're willing, let the schools know. Now.
Tell farmers, too.
Of course, food service directors also must identify Michigan produce they can purchase. Now's the time for farmers to talk with schools or distributors about products they could sell to them this school year.
Check out the column I wrote for the Traverse City Record-Eagle, here.
Spread the word, please.