Over $9 million to support local food for Michigan’s kids. That’s the potential for 10 Cents a Meal we are looking at for this upcoming state government fiscal year. With this recent news of dramatic budget growth on the verge of being finalized, I can’t help but think of the journey 10 Cents a Meal has taken to get to this moment. Enjoy this brief look back at some milestone moments.
In 2013, inspired by a recommendation in the Good Food Charter, Groundwork supporters provided private funding to pilot a local program that would offer schools a financial incentive for purchasing and serving Michigan-grown fruits, vegetables, and legumes. We named the program 10 Cents a Meal. The goals were simple; provide kids in schools with local food on their lunch trays, and help cultivate the big and reliable school market for farmers and local food producers. After proving the concept and benefits of 10 Cents a Meal in northwest Lower Michigan, the pilot made the leap to becoming a state pilot program implemented and funded through the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) in 2016. This expanded the reach of 10 Cents a Meal to select regions across the state and was a way for Michigan to formally invest in the concept.
In the five years since the MDE took over the program, 10 Cents a Meal has seen tremendous growth and expansion, and support—and has overcome a few setbacks. Here are the top five most important things that have happened with 10 Cents a Meal since that first official pilot year in 2016.
- Funding for the pilot expanded yearly between 2016 and 2019, rising from $250,000 to $375,000 to $575,000, and with each pilot year 10 Cents a Meal became available in more regions across the state.
- 10 Cents a Meal was vetoed out of the 2019 budget, but thanks to strong advocacy, funding was retroactively restored for the 2019-2020 year in the July supplemental budget approval.
- 10 Cents a Meal continued strong and became an official statewide program (transitioning out of pilot status) in 2020-2021. The budget grew to $2 million, and eligibility expanded statewide and added non-school sponsors like child care centers and residential child care institutions (RCCI’s).
- In its second year of statewide availability and expanded eligibility, 2021-2022, 10 Cents a Meal has 257 grantees across the state—over 16 times the number of grantees in the first MDE pilot year.
- Funding for the current grant year, 2021-2022, is $4.5 million—more than double the previous year’s funding of $2 million, and providing locally grown food to 585,000 Michigan children.
What’s next? The journey continues…
The 10 Cents a Meal budget for Fiscal Year 2023 is on its way to being finalized. Last week the legislature doubled down on its commitment to Michigan’s kids and farmers by more than doubling the budget to $9.3 million. Additionally the budget language removes the requirement that recipients provide monthly participation rates and adds supportive farm to school activities as an eligible use for grant funds, which should remove some barriers to participating. All that’s needed now is for the governor to sign off!
Building Champions Across the State
10 Cents a Meal would not be where it is without champions across the state who have advocated for the program. Within communities, statewide organizations, and the legislature itself, champions of 10 Cents a Meal have been core to growing 10 Cents a Meal into the program we have today. In 2019 when the governor vetoed 10 Cents a Meal out of the budget, it was engaged advocates who spoke out and encouraged the state to continue funding 10 Cents a Meal, which led to the retroactive funding of the 2019-2020 year and the later expansion in 2020-2021.
Advocacy works. Sharing the news within communities works. In the lead-up to the August 2022 primary, engaging with candidates to educate them about 10 Cents a Meal can set the stage for continued support and funding for the program as new leaders enter the ranks of the legislature and state government. This is especially important as longtime 10 Cents a Meal supporter State Sen. Wayne Schmidt’s (R-Traverse City) time in the legislature comes to an end due to term limits.
Stay tuned! We’ll be sending more information on how to do candidate education and how you can support 10 Cents a Meal as we make investing in locally grown food for children a part of Michigan’s identity.
Melanie Wong, Farm to Early Care and Education Specialist, Groundwork