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.