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MDARD and Agricultural Commodities Celebrate New Market Opportunities

Historic education budget includes funding for all Michigan students’ breakfast and lunch served in their local school

Lansing, MI – Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) Director Tim Boring today, along with several Michigan commodity groups, highlighted the unique economic opportunities created for Michigan’s food and agriculture sector as part of Governor Whitmer’s historic education budget, including free breakfast and lunch to Michigan’s students.

Michigan joins California, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Vermont as the only states providing free breakfast and lunch to students.

“Nutrition is a fundamental building block for student success and the first step begins with local agriculture,” said Director Boring. “Governor Whitmer’s bipartisan budget will feed 1.4 million students and Michigan’s farmers are ready to help meet those needs.

“This funding presents our food and agriculture sector with a unique opportunity to increase the use of locally grown and processed foods and help create new markets for our farmers as we work towards ensuring no Michigan child goes hungry. Our farmers can offer a wide variety of nutritious items to add to school menus. Many Michigan schools are already participating in programs like Farm to School and we look forward to adding more farmer and school participants. It’s a win-win for all.”

School meal programs bring together school food service professionals, farmers, food hubs, processors and distributors to improve the availability and distribution of local foods for school food programs.

According to the US Agricultural Department, Michigan is the second largest supplier of food to the United States Department of Agriculture  by pound for school lunches, just after California. Those products include fresh fruits and vegetables from Michigan farms to schools.

“Michigan Apples are a big part of school meals – whether they are fresh, sliced, or served as apple sauce or juice. Governor Whitmer’s budget plan to provide free breakfast and lunch to all of Michigan’s K-12 students will help kids reach the recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables, support healthy eating behaviors, and allow young students to focus on learning. The Michigan Apple industry appreciates efforts to increase access to and consumption of fruits and vegetables,” said Diane Smith, Executive Director of the Michigan Apple Committee.  

“Eating lunch shouldn’t be a privilege. It is a basic human need. Michigan’s family poultry farms have helped to fill the gap for school children,” said Nancy Barr, executive director of Michigan Allied Poultry Industries. “Farming families of all types, including poultry farmers, are active in their local communities to ensure food availability, including paying for school lunch debt. MAPI supports all efforts to provide food security to children."

“One in four children experience food insecurity which means they don’t know where their next meal is coming from. School meals are vital to ensuring our students have the nutrition they need to learn and grow. This is an important milestone for feeding the future of Michigan, our children. The impact of free breakfast and lunch will surpass far beyond the school year,” said Jolene Griffin, VP of Industry Relations for United Dairy Industry of Michigan.

Michigan’s Farm to School Program involves state agencies, community partners, academia, farmers and school food service programs, 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), MDARD and local community and school food programs lead 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 providing student 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.

Michigan is one of the most agriculturally diverse states in the U.S., leading the nation in the production of dry black beans, dry cranberry beans, tart cherries, asparagus, cucumbers, dry navy beans, squash, and dry small red beans, and ranking high in the production of blueberries, summer squash, bell peppers, peaches, carrots, celery, sweet cherries, apples, fresh sweet corn, and many other specialty crops. The state has more than 46,000 farms producing a wide variety of crops on nearly 10 million acres of farmland. Michigan’s food and agriculture system employs over 805,000 people, about 17.2 percent of the state’s workforce. This contributes more than $104.7 billion to the state's economy annually.