August 31, 2020 , 8:08 am

A Meal Program at only 10 cents!

What amazing news. 10 Cents a Meal for Michigan’s Kids & Farms was restored by the state legislature last month, providing retroactive support to eligible schools for serving locally grown fruits and vegetables to students during the last school year.

That was after a roller coaster year that saw funding stalled, partly due to COVID-19 and the resulting state budget crisis.

10 Cents a Meal was the only addition to the state School Aid Budget supplemental. All other changes were cuts.

But it’s one budget down, one to go.

Michigan legislators reconvene Sept. 1 and face the daunting task of developing a new budget for the upcoming fiscal and school year by Oct. 1 — just one month’s time.

Advocates in Michigan are working hard to make sure that healthy school food for the state’s children is a priority in the budget. They seek continued and expanded funding for 10 Cents a Meal, which provides matching grants for schools to purchase locally grown produce. They want to see it expanded statewide for the first time, which did not happen in the supplemental budget.

“My goal, first and foremost, was to keep it alive,” said Sen. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, who has been the key legislative champion for 10 Cents a Meal. “We got that accomplished. As the old adage says: ‘Live to fight another day.’ And that is what we are going to do.”

The Michigan League for Public Policy argues 10 Cents a Meal is needed now, more than ever — and that it is cost-effective in a time of budget crisis.

“The program provides a huge bang for our buck at a time when every penny counts,” the League said in a blog posted Wednesday. “Our policymakers have to stretch severely limited resources to meet unprecedented health, educational and economic needs right now, and 10 Cents a Meal serves all three purposes for the low cost of one dime for every meal served to a Michigan child.”

Sen. Schmidt said a variety of factors will impact the program’s future funding, including the economy and federal funds that Congress is debating for states in the face of COVID.

“We’ve seen the success of the program,” he said. “We know the importance of nutrition for school-age children, and we know the importance of Michigan agriculture. When you can blend the two together, it equals success. We want to continue that.

“The COVID crisis has highlighted health care needs,” he added. “Obviously, one of the best ways to deal with any health challenge is good nutrition. It’s fresh fruits and vegetables, and Michigan has a lot of them.”

Sen. Schmidt said he expects the legislature and the governor to wait “until the last minute” to finalize the budget so that they know all of their revenue options.

Meanwhile, Groundwork Center created a sign-on letter to submit when the legislature reconvenes Sept. 1. It supports more funding for 10 Cents a Meal and expansion statewide and to early child care settings.

Tags
Complete meal
cost-effective
School Aid Budget
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