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New year to bring more healthy foods to Michigan schools

Jan 2, 2015

Michigan was chosen to take part in the USDA's Pilot Project for procurement of unprocessed fruits and vegetables.
Credit SDRandCo/morguefile.com.

More locally grown fruits and vegetables could soon be coming to a school district near you, thanks to a pilot program from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Linda Jo Doctor, program officer with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, works with farm-to-school programs in Detroit. She says this opportunity will help build on what she calls a win-win scenario.

"The kids get access to healthier foods, and it creates economic opportunities for our local farmers in building their connections with schools as a new market for them," Doctor says.

Michigan was one of eight states chosen to take part in the pilot program, which will allow the selected states to use some of their federal funding to purchase unprocessed fruits and vegetables directly. In addition, two Michigan school districts, Detroit and Waterford, received additional funding to enhance farm-to-school programs.

In 2010, several community groups, farmers and organizations came together to establish the Michigan Good Food Charter, with the goal of sourcing 20 percent of the state's school food from local growers and producers by 2020. Doctor says the effort is paying off.

"In programs where children have time they can spend in gardens, that they actually go to the farms, meet farmers and get a better understanding where food comes from, they're more excited and interested in eating healthier fruits and vegetables," she says.

According to a survey from the Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems, the number of Michigan school food service directors participating in farm-to-school initiatives nearly tripled from 2004 to 2009.