See below for an article from today's Lansing State Journal about Michigan, along with Florida, being chosen to participate in a USDA pilot program to allow school food service/nutrition directors to use some USDA entitlement dollars to purchase local food starting in 2012! This is a great opportunity for our state and will hopefully give our school food service directors more flexibility to purchase and serve foods they choose locally, but surely many details of this program are yet to be worked out. Stay tuned for more information as we learn more!
Farm to Institution Specialist
CS Mott Group for Sustainable Food Systems
Michigan State University
303 Natural Resources Building
East Lansing, MI 48824-1222
USDA picks Michigan for food program - Laura Misjak, Lansing State Journal
Officials are expected to announce the program today, with Michigan and Florida schools able to purchase the locally grown food in 2012, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan said in a Monday interview with the State Journal.
"It's really about making bureaucracy work better by using existing entitlement dollars and increasing the flexibility of how those entitlement dollars can be used," Merrigan said.
School districts will be able to use the USDA funds they receive to purchase locally grown food.
The effort is expected to increase nutritional value in school lunches, boost the state's agricultural economy and give students the opportunity to see where their food comes from, Merrigan said.
The pilot program has great potential to positively impact Michigan's economy, said U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing.
"I think Michigan particularly will benefit because we grow just about everything we need here," she said. "Our schools are very eager to be able to purchase from their local community because they can get apples, cherries, blueberries, celery, and everything from local farmers."
Local growers will have to be on an authorized list of vendors through the USDA, Merrigan said, and details on how to get on that list will be released in coming weeks.
Michigan was chosen because of a high interest in farm-to-school programs, along with the wide variety of locally grown fruits and vegetables.
The state's agricultural diversity is second only to California's, officials said.
Diane Connors, a food and farming senior policy specialist with the Michigan Land Use Institute, said the program will provide more flexibility for food service directors to serve Michigan-grown foods.
"It's fantastic to get more flexibility with USDA funds for schools in Michigan to purchase produce from local farmer and to get healthy foods to kids in school," she said. "It's also good to build local food economies in Michigan where farming is such an important part of our economy."