10 Cents a Meal is a $250,000 state pilot program that launched in fall 2016. Dexter joins the 16 school districts in northwest and west Michigan that the program provides with competitive matching grants to spend on locally grown fruits, vegetables and dry beans.
A total of $210,000 in state match funding provides up to $420,000 for Michigan’s agricultural economy for school districts like Dexter’s.
Interesting facts from 10 Cents a Meal:
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.
“This money will help fund the purchase of local fruit, vegetables and legumes in DCS cafeterias,” a Dexter Farm to School spokesperson said in a press release. “Watch for local apples, peas, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and stone fruit on the salad bar or as a menu side for the month of September.”
Dexter Farm to School is part of a movement all across the country that more and more schools, cafeterias, and after school programs are finding benefits from. Farm to School, in its most broad definition, can entail anything that connects students in school with food and agriculture. This could look like students visiting a farm on a school field trip, having a farmer come visit their classroom, growing food and flowers in a school garden, or eating locally grown food in their school cafeteria.