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Farm to School efforts overcoming barriers in supply chains

More funding for Michigan’s child nutrition programs to source local foods is adding value to the state’s ag economy but running into challenges along the supply chain.

The state plans to invest more than $9 million in the 10 Cents a Meal for Michigan’s Kids and Farms program in the 2023 fiscal year.

Wendy Crowley, Farm to Program Consultant for the Michigan Department of Education, oversees the program.

“One of our largest barriers is the way most medium to large school districts get all of their groceries through a broadline distributor,” she says.  “Broadline distributors don’t have the data systems and the capability to pinpoint the specific farm where something was grown.”

Participants can earn up to 10 cents a meal for every meal they serve to purchase Michigan-grown, minimally processed fruits, vegetables, and dry beans through the program. 

Legislation approving the state funding requires farm names and locations which Crowley tells Brownfield has been frustrating for some food service providers.  She says most school kitchens also need products ready to serve.

“Schools are really not able to process a case of raw broccoli that came from your field, so there’s not any sort of infrastructure or very limited places where there’s infrastructure for that middle of the supply chain processing,” she explains.

Crowley says the distance between where some produce is grown to other regions of Michigan is also a barrier.  She hopes new federal Farm to School grants can help address hurdles. 

Food purchased to support Farm to School activities will be eligible for grant funds in the 2023 fiscal year.

October is National Farm to School Month and Governor Gretchen Whitmer has made a declaration in Michigan honoring programs including the 10 Cents a Meal for Michigan’s Kids and Farms program.

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