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10 Cents a Meal

(Learn about the state pilot project)

10 Cents policy champion Diane Conners explains the program's impact

what is '10 cents': 

A $250,000 state pilot, launched in fall 2016, is providing 16 school districts in northwest and west Michigan with competitive matching grants to spend on locally grown fruits, vegetables and dry beans.

  • $210,000 in state match funding provides up to $420,000 for Michigan's agricultural economy and great food for our kids.
  • Breaks down financial barriers to this common-sense market for local agriculture.
  • Helps kids know where food comes from—a farm, not a store. 

The timing is right for Michigan:

  • Economic Opportunity for Michigan Agriculture: Schools are newly required under federal nutrition standards to serve more, and a greater variety, of fruits, vegetables, and legumes—precisely what our farmers grow. Michigan is the second most agriculturely diverse state in the nation.
  • Public support for nutrition: A 2015 poll from Pew Charitable Trusts shows that in Michigan nearly 98% of voting public-school parents believe that serving nutritious food in schools is important.
  • Public support for farm to school: A 2015 national poll from W.K. Kellogg Foundation found 8% of Americans support increased government funding to expand farm to school programs.
  • Food service interest: In 2013, 82% of Michigan school food service directors said they were interested in purchasing local foods in the future, and in 2014, 54% said they were purchasing them, according to surveys by the MSU Center for Regional Food Systems (CRFS).
  • Farmer interest: 50% of Michigan vegetable growers were interested in selling to institutions, according to a 2012 CRFS survey.
  • Overcomes Barriers: Tight budgets were among the barriers cited by school food service directors in buying local, while low prices were a concern for growers according to CRFS surveys.
What we’ve learned
In Northwest Michigan

Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities and the Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District launched a pilot project in northwest Lower Michigan in the 2013 school year, with grant funds and business donations.

    10 Cents clearly benefited farms. In the year prior to “10 Cents,” the three school districts that launched the project spent $30,731 on local fruits and vegetables. In the two years since the introduction of the program, those three districts have purchased nearly $150,000 in local fruits and vegetables—an average increase of 142% each year. 

    Four other districts have also joined the program, and the seven districts together purchased 25 different fruits and vegetables grown by 36 area farms in the 2014-15 year alone. 

Here is how ‘10 cents’ helps schools:

  • Targeted budget help: Schools have only 20-30 cents per meal to spend on produce. This provides extra funding, and funding that is dedicated to buying local.
  • Try new things: A financial cushion can help school food service directors to try new things. Traverse City schools found kids love Romanesco—a lime green cross between broccoli and cauliflower that kids say looks like a spaceship.
  • Funding stability: Farm to school will not get cut with a stable fund. Schools can strategically plan farm to school growth
  • Customer satisfaction: When children love the food they are served, they come back for more, providing even more stable revenue for food service.


  • Predictable market for farms:  Food service directors learn what their students like, what their staff can prepare, and catalyze supply through their demand. It makes sense to reduce barriers to school buying, and build on-ramps instead.
  • In the NW Michigan Pilot, districts matched the 10 cents a meal investment from the 10 Cent Fund—and then some. 
  • The districts in 2014-2015 received $21,460 from the 10 Cent Fund, but spent a total of $75,996 on locally grown fruits and vegetables.


NW Lower Michigan pilot: 

  • Match from districts required (from regular school lunch dollars)
  • Schools reimbursed 50% of spending per meal (up to 10 cents of 20 cents)
  • Calculated seasonally:  fall (Sept-Dec), winter (Jan-March) and spring (April-June), with funding expectations of a maximum of 60% of lunches in fall (local food served 3 times/week), 40% in winter, and 20% in spring

Here’s how ‘10 cents’ can help michigan

With 100% funding FOR ALL SCHOOL LUNCHES:

  • 142 million lunches served in Michigan schools:
  • $14 million for farmers 
  • $24 million with school district match

With seasonal funding caps like NW MICHIGAN:

  • 142 million lunches served in Michigan schools:
  • $6.64 million for farmers 
  • $13.3 million with school district match

nationwide farm to school leader

  • Michigan joins a handful of states that support and incentivize schools to purchase locally grown food.
  • This program was inspired by a recently completed 3-year pilot developed by the Groundwork Center, which served 7 districts in the Grand Traverse region.

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