Upper Peninsula schools receive State grant for lunch programs

Copper Country

MICHIGAN (WJMN) – 10 Cents a Meal for Michigan’s Kids and Farms provides schools and early childhood education centers with match incentive funding for up to 10 cents per meal to purchase and serve Michigan-grown fruits, vegetables, and legumes.

Schools in the Upper Peninsula that received the grant are Gwinn Area Public Schools for $1000; Hancock Public Schools for $3000; Houghton-Portage Township School District for $2000; Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan Head Start for $5000; and, Stanton Township Public Schools for $3000.

This year the program was extended to the entire state and the 5 grantees in the U.P. are the first in the region to receive the grant. Nathan Medina, Policy Specialist for Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities, says the program is through the Michigan Department of Education and grants are available until the funding runs out.

“This is a state program initially it was a pilot program from 2016 and it provides matching funds to grant-winning schools who apply to the Michigan Department of Education and they can use that money towards the purchase of Michigan grown fruits, vegetables, dry beans, for school meals and the program basically doubles the state’s investment because it’s a match with existing federal school dollars and schools can direct that purchase to ag products from their local economy,” said Medina.

Medina says early childhood education centers that apply for the program must be in a USDA child nutrition program including the extended summer food program, or the National School Lunch Program or the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). Any school or education center that applies for the grant must have a plan to purchase the local foods. Medina says for schools that need help finding local produce can get help from the Michigan Department of Education.

“If people are trying to source locally in the Upper Peninsula they can go through the U.P. Food Exchange which is funded by the Marquette Food Co-op or they can communicate with Taste the Local Difference,” said Medina.

Alex Palzewicz is the Upper Peninsula Local Food Coordinator for Taste the Local Difference and can be reached at  alex@localdifference.org. Medina says schools can connect with Palzewicz to find local farms and other resources.

Schools interested in becoming a part of the program can still apply for funding until the allocated amount is used up. Medina says the second cycle is still going on. Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities has a grant application guide available for foodservice directors on their website.

Shelby Turnquist, Food Service Director for both Houghton-Portage Township Schools and Hancock Public Schools, says when U.P. Food Exchange had just started up she went to some of their meetings to try to get more local food into the schools and hopes to work with them again for this program.

“I’ve actually met with Margaret Hansen who does Teach to Taste and she’s going to be trying to get some funding through the Portage Foundation and wants to set up meetings within the next couple of months with farmers up here so that we can start seeing where we can go with this,” said Turnquist. “She’s going to meet with the Health Department and see what our regulations are going to be.”

Turnquist says she’s excited about the program for the kids and she hopes to get them more interested in fruits and vegetables. She says before COVID-19 that children had access to two full salad bars one with fresh fruit and one with fresh vegetables but they had to switch to prepackaged foods because of the pandemic.

“I’m hoping that next year that we’re back and we can be bringing the farmers in and put a face to where the food’s coming from maybe get some field trips that we’re out on the farms with the children so I’d really like to progress with that,” said Turnquist.

Houghton-Portage Township Schools and Hancock Public Schools is currently doing a meal pickup for students in the districts both engaged in in-person learning and virtual learning. For students in virtual classes they can pick up meals for the week, students in in-person classes can pick up meals for weekends. Turnquist says to email her to get on the list for whichever school a family wants to pick up from. She can be reached at sturnquist@hancock.k12.mi.us.

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