Northwest Michigan Advocates for “10 Cent Solution”

03/2/2012

Governor Snyder visits Traverse City Area Public Schools (TCAPS). Photo courtesy of Michigan Land Use Institute. (view larger image)

Governor Snyder visits Traverse City Area Public Schools (TCAPS). Photo courtesy of Michigan Land Use Institute.

Adapted from Michigan Land Use Institute press release March 1, 2012

One of the 25 agenda priorities in the charter calls for implementing a reimbursement program to provide an additional 10 cents per school meal for the purchase of Michigan-grown fruits and vegetables. Now, non-profit organizations, school districts, food service directors, farmers, food businesses and others in northwest Michigan are coming together to make this recommendation a reality in their region.

Earlier this month, their efforts took a major step forward. On Friday, March 2,  Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and  Keith Creagh, director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, visited a local elementary school to hear about area farm to school efforts and how these efforts could be strengthened through a 10 cents per meal supplement for local food—a so-called “10 cent solution.”

Diane Conners, Senior Policy Specialist at Michigan Land Use Institute, presenting to Governor Snyder. Photo courtesy of MLUI.

Diane Conners, Senior Policy Specialist at Michigan Land Use Institute, presenting to Governor Snyder. Photo courtesy of MLUI.

“We are asking the governor, legislators, and state agencies to watch this project closely, help where they can, and monitor its results to help inform possible expansion in the region, to additional pilots in other parts of the state, or statewide,” said Diane Conners, senior policy specialist in food and farming for MLUI.

The idea behind the 10 cent supplement is to help get more healthy food to kids by extending the limited budgets of school food service directors, who typically have only $1.00 for food per meal, 20-30 cents of which goes towards fruits and vegetables, while at the same time putting more money into the hands of area farmers and the local agricultural community.

In 2011, Michigan schools served 141.4 million lunches. Ten cents for every lunch would put $14 million into the state’s economy, and could spur job growth in food businesses to meet school needs, for activities as basic as washing, drying, and bagging locally grown lettuce.

Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District, the Michigan Land Use Institute, and other members of the Northwest Michigan Food & Farming Network will seek public and private sector grants, community funds, and other resources for a pilot project they’re calling “10 Cents a Meal for School Kids and Farms.” The project mimics a similar pilot in Oregon that provided 7 cents a meal to two public school districts to purchase locally grown food.

The Oregon program significantly affected the local economy, according to researchers: its $160,750 investment leveraged additional local purchasing by the schools for a total of $461,992.

The plan is to utilize a pilot in the Traverse City region to demonstrate the economic impact such an endeavor could have in Michigan, as well as the potential impact on student attitudes towards healthy foods.

Mike Hill, superintendent of Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District, said:  “TBAISD is proud to be a collaborative partner in this important initiative. Healthy students eating locally grown food will mean greater achievement and success. This truly could be a model best practice for Michigan and the country.”

“This pilot will help Michigan children have increased access to fresh, local foods while advancing an agenda priority of the Michigan Good Food Charter,” said Colleen Matts, Farm to Institution Specialist at Michigan State University.  “This pilot can help lay a solid foundation for the “10 Cent Solution” to expand over the coming years to other regions of the state or even statewide.”