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Traverse City Restaurant Supports Farm to School EffortsPrint

Food & Farming | February 4, 2013 | By MLUI Farm To School Program

Firefly Restaurant will help area schools purchase fruits and vegetables grown by local farmers by donating $1 of each dessert sale to the 10 Cents a Meal for School Kids & Farms program, a project of the nonprofit Michigan Land Use Institute.

The support is part of Firefly’s “Treat Yourself – Treat Your Community” program

MLUI developed 10 Cents a Meal with nine school districts in Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, and Leelanau counties and the Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District. It aims to provide schools, which have tight budgets and only about 20 to 30 cents a meal to spend on fruits and vegetables, with greater ability to buy locally grown produce.  

“I want our kids to get used to eating healthy, local food,” said Scott Swanson, Firefly’s general manager. “Many kids depend on schools for lunch, and in some cases, breakfast. If we can get these habits formed early, we can begin to eliminate health problems later in life—all while supporting the local farmers we are so lucky to have.”

Firefly owner Jeff Wiltse agreed, and said developing more business for farms means more food and farm jobs.

“It’s important to embrace our neighbors who are doing business in northern Michigan, “ he said. “Healthy farms in the Grand Traverse region will make for a healthy community in the long term.”

Firefly’s new donation program starts on Valentine’s Day—a nice day for a treat after eating sparingly since the holidays, said Diane Conners, MLUI senior policy specialist and director of the organization’s farm to school program.

“We deeply appreciate Firefly’s support of 10 Cents a Meal,” Conners said. “Not only will it help raise much needed dollars for good school food, we hope it sparks conversations about the initiative as people share meals together.”

Two other businesses also have provided support to 10 Cents a Meal. Last fall, local foods distribution company Cherry Capital Foods donated $2,625, or $15 from each of the 175 tickets sold for its third annual PigstockTC event. Epicure Catering, one of the first sponsors of MLUI’s Taste the Local Difference local food marketing program, donated an additional $150 at PigstockTC.

MLUI hopes to raise $50,000 a year for 10 Cents a Meal, or $100,000 for the two-year project. That will put local fruits and vegetables on the lunch plates of elementary school children three days a week in the fall, one day a week in winter, and two days a week in spring.

The participating school districts have pledged to match each 10 cents provided by the fund with 10 cents from their own regular school lunch dollars. That means the $100,000 raised for the two-year project actually will put $200,000 into the local economy.

The Utopia Foundation of Leelanau County is accepting tax-deductible donations for 10 Cents a Meal on behalf of MLUI. The foundation is matching the first $10,000 raised with an additional 25 percent match, or $2,500.

To donate online, go to www.utopiafound.org and click on Utopia Funds. To provide business or other fundraising support, contact diane@mlui.org. Learn more at www.mlui.org/10cents .