10 Cents A Meal Program Expands To 29 Counties; Applications Due Monday

Michigan school districts just have until Monday night to sign up for the state’s 10 Cents a Meal program.

The program reimburses participating school districts 10 cents per meal to provide local produce during lunch.

It started as a locally-funded pilot in Traverse City, but blossomed into a state-funded program that’s expanded across northwest Michigan and into some downstate areas.

“We got ours in and I encourage schools to put theirs in.” says Traverse City Area Public Schools Food and Nutrition Director Tom Frietas.

TCAPS has been part of the 10 Cents a Meal program since the start.

Now with the program expanding TCAPS knew they had to stay on the ball.

Frietas explains, “For every apple we put on we get 10 cents back. That cuts the cost of it when you’re trying make a meal for a one dollar, $1.25 per meal, that is huge.”

When schools are buying more local produce it makes a difference to farmers.

9 Bean Rows farmer Nic Welty says they provides 25 products to local schools. “Being able to have active engaged customers that can afford to pay us in the winter time, really that’s the difference from having a sustainable business than not in many cases.”

But it’s the difference it makes for kids’ health and learning that really makes the program worthwhile.

Welty mentions, “Our daughter, she doesn’t have to pack her lunch as much as she used to. She used to not even bother going into the school food service because it really wasn’t what she was looking for.”

“Up in Old Mission School we actually buy from that orchard up there so the kids can actually watch the fruits growing as they are in class and they get to eat it when they go to the cafeteria,” Frietas says, “anytime you can see the whole process it makes a big difference.”

The same reason everyone involved hopes the program eventually will become statewide.

Welty says, “The demand is so much bigger than where we’re at right now that I hope that this is just the starting point of the program.”

School districts’ applications are due Monday August 28, by 11:59 p.m.

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