What difference can a dime make? When it comes to school lunches, a dime can have a dramatic impact on the quality of food that kids are served in cafeteria meals, and at the same time can build new markets for family farms. That's what Groundwork learned when we were able to test out the impact of investing a matching 10 cents a meal for schools to buy local fruits and vegetables, and we were thrilled that the state legislature was inspired by our pilot to start its own program, which in school year 18–19 is available in 27 Michigan counties and served 135,000 students. We hope it will expand statewide!
— Diane Conners, senior policy specialist
In 2013 Groundwork Center set out to test an idea: What difference would providing an extra, matching 10 cents per meal mean for hard-working school food service directors in their efforts to buy locally grown fruits and vegetables for their school meals? Food service directors said it helped them serve fresh, juicy peaches instead of canned cling peaches and gave them the flexibility to try new things. By the end of our local pilot, schools spent $230,126 over three years on fruits and vegetables grown by 30 farmers in our 10-county region—including $63,062 from the 10 Cent Fund.
In 2016, state legislators impressed with Groundwork's pilot program set aside $250,000 for a competitive grant program in two regions of the state to further test the model. In the 2017-18 school year they expanded the pilot to $375,000 and added a third region in the state, making 32 districts eligible, and resulting in 95,000 students buying local fruits and vegetables. The legislature expanded the pilot program even further in 2018–19 school year, increasing the budget to $575,000, making it available to schools in 27 counties and serving 135,000 students. Michigan joins Oregon, New Mexico, New York, and Washington, D.C., as farm to school leaders in this cutting edge approach. Our legislators are considering expanding the pilot program statewide.