The passion is breathtaking.
Hundreds of schools, early childhood education centers, after school programs, and others have hit “submit” or “save” on applications to the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) for the 10 Cents a Meal for Michigan’s Kids & Farms program. And many more can if you help spread the word: The program funding was more than doubled to $5 million this year, and the deadline to apply has just been extended to Monday, August 23 at 7 a.m.
Ask the people who feed your community’s children if they know about this pioneering grant that provides matching funds for them to purchase produce from local family farms, and if there’s any way you can help.
Consider this: The key contact in a metro-Detroit after-school program that my colleague Nathan Medina spoke with Monday, August 16—the original application deadline day—was anxious for an extension. With the storms last week, Nathan learned, it was impossible for the agency to apply because they didn’t have electrical power.
But people sure weren’t powerless.
A food service director in northeast lower Michigan confirmed that he was applying, even in the middle of preparing for his school opening after a year of trying to feed children in the middle of so much upheaval due to COVID-19. I had inquired with him to see if he was applying. “I know it’s been a rough year,” I emailed. “We are happy to help in whatever way we can.”
“It’s been a wild year,” he confirmed. But, yes, he was applying.
A food service director in southwest Michigan applied on Saturday and emailed that day to let me know. Another in Flint texted me on Sunday that she’d applied. Other food service directors hadn’t yet seen the application. They wouldn’t be back on the job until this week.
And on the deadline day of Monday, even though hundreds had applied, the hard-working MDE staff made the decision to keep the application open one more week so that even more children could benefit from the fresh food that 10 Cents a Meal makes possible.
The next day (yesterday!) Diane Golzynski, MDE’s Child Nutrition Director, spoke in a Facebook Live panel on child nutrition programs hosted by the Food Bank Council of Michigan. She recalled the huge pivot her staff, Michigan schools, and early childcare centers made after getting word in March 2020 that schools had to close due to COVID.
Since then, she said, food service staff across the state have served one-quarter of a billion meals to children—inside schools when they could be in session, with boxed meals to eat at home when children had to learn remotely, and sometimes both. She talked of double digit increases of meals served from one March to another. And she told a story of a 9-year-old who biked to his school every time there was an opportunity to pick up meals to take home.
“One time it was pouring rain,” she said. “Absolutely raining cats and dogs. And one of the food service workers said, ‘Why are you out in this weather?’ His answer—he was 9—his answer was, ‘My brothers and sisters need them.’”
She continued: “That is how important these meals are. In rain or shine, snow or ice, it doesn’t matter. Everyone wants to eat every day.”
So what can you do?
- Spread the word, please. Here is the grant application resource page which includes a link to the application. Amplify the passion that child nutrition staff have. Make sure the people who are feeding the children of your community know about this opportunity with 10 Cents a Meal.
- Offer to support them in success. Maybe you can help with a school garden so children become more familiar and interested in the fresh produce that 10 Cents a Meal helps them to buy, or can help with fun taste tests or with social media or a school newsletter article to spread the good news about what they are doing. Contact a principal or teacher who could be supportive.
- If you know a story we should tell about 10 Cents a Meal like this one in an early childcare center, or about #schoolfoodheroes, let us know here in this short form.
- You can also join Groundwork and stakeholders around the state in a 10 Cents a Meal network meeting that we host once a quarter. Our next meeting is this Thursday, August 19. Join us on zoom from 2:30-3:30 p.m. Celebrate the $5 million investment in the program and hear the latest news on the grant, tips on how to be successful using the funds, and also tips for everyone from gardeners to dietitians on how they can help their schools, ECEs, and other groups be successful. Register for the meeting here.
Share the passion. It’s exhilarating.
Diane Conners is Senior Policy Specialist at Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities. [email protected]