Bruce's Blog


Get more nutritious local food into school lunches

February 5th, 2020

Six-year-old Kim eats an Asian pear every day. Her mom gets them from UCOM’s Affordable Farm Stand. But Kim could be one of 137,000 Michigan school children who will lose fresh locally-grown food from their lunches.

Among the 147 line items vetoed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer was a 10 cents a meal incentive for some Michigan schools to purchase and serve local fruits and vegetables in school lunches. The governor’s vetoes were intended to bring attention to a “fatally flawed” budget brought forth from the legislature. Well, Governor, you have our attention.

Schools and students throughout Michigan are asking that the policy be reinstated. Though I admit I have no inside information about the implementation of this policy, I do know that anything we can do to get more fresh locally-grown vegetables into children’s diets is good policy.

According to the 2013 Union of Concerned Scientists report, if Americans consumed just one more serving of fruits and vegetables per day, it would save over 30,000 lives and $5 billion in medical costs each year.  If Americans were to follow current USDA recommendations for daily consumption of fruits and vegetables, those numbers would go up to more than 127,000 lives and $17 billion saved. (That would be equivalent to saving the lives of everyone living in Wyoming and Kentwood.)

A Calvin University study (aided by UCOM, among many other local organizations), showed that across all economic stratas people want fresh vegetables and fruits in their diets. The single most important reason for failure to consume and serve more fruits and vegetables is cost. Making nutritious local food available in school lunches has been shown to be one of the ways to help students improve their health and their learning capacity.

The good news is that the governor’s office does remain open to potentially bring back the program in some form.

As an advocate for food sovereignty, I urge that the governor decides in what form this can be brought back, and that she proposes doing that in her February budget.

I also urge supporters of access to good food to call or write the governor. Urge her to put Michigan’s money where our future is, and provide incentives to our schools to take care of Michigan’s students’ health and well being by providing access to nutritious local food for school lunches.

Providing access to locally-grown food in school lunches is good for the students and good for local farmers. Cut the state budget somewhere else.


#1 Lisa said:

Thank you Bruce for bringing attention to this important issue that impacts the health of so many and the pocketbooks of anyone who pays taxes. We appreciate all you do to increase access!

#2 Barbara K Springer said:

Thank you! I would love to have fruits & veggies brought back to children. Not at my expense but through what their parents feed them in their homes.
I would like the ability to purchase edible fruits & vegetable to be in the local stores! The quality has Deminished extensively in the past three & 4 years. Especially in the winter months.

#3 Linda Looney said:

I’m afraid Ms. Springer has missed the point that the reason many parents cannot provide fresh fruits and vegetables is cost. When you barely have enough money to pay your rent, utilities, clothing, laundry-AND food-one usually must buy the most filling, but cheapest food available.

#4 Fritz Crabb said:

Thank you for bring this to our attention. One more strike against the poor. Governor’s budget is set to be released soon. If this is not included I will begin my calls! Also sharing your Facebook post.

#5 Bruce Roller said:

Thank you for your comment, Lisa. Your work with Heartside Gleaning Initiative provided thousands of pounds of fresh from the farm food to our neighbors through UCOM's Healthy Choice Pantry and many other organizations. We are proud to partner with you to provide equitable access to nutritious local produce for people with low and moderate incomes in our community.

#6 Bruce Roller said:

Yes, Linda, your assessment is on track with my thinking. As a faith-based organization, UCOM recognizes the right of all people to have good nutritious food. The private sector has not been able to meet the goal of providing enough food for all who need it. A private/public cooperative effort seems to me to be the best way to address this need. Adding a serving or two of good local produce to school meals makes for healthier children and a better local agricultural system.

#7 Bruce Roller said:

Barbara, thank you for your response. I too would like to see more local produce in our grocery stores though I realize that local eating means the foods available to us are seasonal. In Michigan in winter local produce is often root vegetables and other "storable" food. Even if this were available in grocery stores, it would not likely be affordable for people with low and moderate incomes. Adding locally-grown produce to school lunches is an efficent and economical way to meet this basic need for many children.

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