Governor Whitmer Proclaims October as Farm to School Month
LANSING, MI – Governor Gretchen Whitmer has proclaimed October as Farm to School Month in Michigan. Farm to school is a national program enriching the connection communities have with fresh, healthy food and local producers by changing food purchasing and education practices at schools and early care and education settings.
“I am proud of our efforts to increase access to healthy, fresh local foods in Michigan through our Farm to School efforts,” said Governor Whitmer. “Farm to School empowers children and their families to make informed food choices and strengthens the local economy, which contributes to vibrant communities and improves the health and well-being of our kids.”
Michigan’s Farm to School efforts involve state agencies, community partners, academia, farmers and school food service programs across the state, working together to lift up children, families, and communities in an equitable and inclusive way. The Center for Regional Food Systems at Michigan State University, the Michigan Department of Education (MDE), and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) are championing the statewide efforts.
Through the Farm to School program, schools and preschools buy and feature locally produced, farm-fresh foods such as dairy, fruits and vegetables, eggs, honey, meat, and beans on their menus. Schools also incorporate nutrition-based curriculum and provide students with experiential learning opportunities like farm visits, garden-based learning, cooking lessons, and composting and recycling programs. As a result, students have access to fresh, local foods, and farmers have access to new markets through school sales. Farmers are also able to participate in programs designed to educate kids about local food and agriculture.
“Michigan’s local farmers, farm workers, and school nutrition professionals are key components of our state’s vibrant food system,” said MDARD Director Gary McDowell. “The framework in place through Farm to School efforts have been crucial as farmers, school food service workers and volunteers continue to serve as frontline heroes, expanding their efforts to provide food to our students and families during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
A recent United States Department of Agriculture grant awarded to MDE will convene key partners and champion school food service directors to develop a series of Farm to School training videos covering procurement, agriculture education, Farm to School program, school gardens, food safety, food preparation, culinary arts, and more.
“MDE has long supported and fostered farm to school programs through state-level partnerships, multiple federal grants, the 10 cents per meal for Michigan Kids and Farms project, and encouraging the purchase of Michigan-grown products for all of our nutrition programs,” said State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice. “Since March, MDE programs have resulted in nearly one million meals being served to school children and their families throughout Michigan as part of the state’s pandemic response efforts.”
MDE houses all federal child nutrition programs outside of Women, Infants and Children and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The department is responsible for school lunch/breakfast programs, after school meals, childcare meals, summer meals, and the food distribution programs of The Emergency Food Assistance Program and Community Supplemental Food Program.
For more information about Michigan’s Farm to School efforts, visit www.canr.msu.edu/farm_to_school.