MCE students eat Michigan grown food, thanks to state grant.

January 24, 2022

MCE students eat Michigan grown food, thanks to state grant.

West Shore School News is a presentation of West Shore Educational Service District in partnership with Mason County Press.

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief

CUSTER — Mason County Eastern students are getting a little added bonus to their daily lunches — food grown by Michigan farmers. For the second year in a row, MCE Food Service has received a grant from 10 Cents a Meal for Michigan’s Kids & Farms, a state-funded program providing schools and early childhood education centers with match incentive funding up to 10 cents per meal to purchase and serve Michigan-grown fruits, vegetables, and legumes. 

Dana Kessel holds some of the carrots and potatoes purchased through the program.

The program has received bi-partisan legislative support since 2016. It provides a 10 cent match per meal for the school food service program to purchase Michigan-grown food. 

“It’s been a great incentive to purchase local Michigan commodities,” said Dana Kessel, director of MCE food service. “The kids really enjoy it. A lot of the produce is something that we normally wouldn’t serve. Today, for example, we served blue potatoes that were grown in Holland.”

MCE serves over 300 meals a day, which is actually lower than pre-COVID numbers. Kessel contributes that some students still study remotely, which has reduced the number of daily meals. 

Kessel said typically the items include green beans, broccoli, carrots and potatoes. The items are purchased through Cultivate Michigan, a statewide membership program with the goal to help farm to institute programs grow. The program has a goal for state institutions to source 20% of their food from Michigan sources. 

“A lot of these items are unique varieties that many of these kids have never tried, such as the blue potatoes or rainbow colored carrots,” Kessel said.  

The program is supported with an educational component provided by Michigan State University Extension’s Show Me Nutrition and Spectrum Health’s My Plate programs. 

Serving blue potatoes grown in west Michigan.

MSU Extension educator Kendra Gibson has been visiting kindergarten classrooms throughout the county to discuss nutrition. Visiting MCE, the only school in Mason County participating in the 10 Cent program, allows Gibson to incorporate her lessons with that day’s meal.

“It’s a great way to teach about nutrition,” Gibson said. “The kids get to see talk about the food they ate or are going to eat for lunch and we get to talk about how their food is grown by farmers right here in Michigan.” 

The Michigan Department of Education selected 228 schools to receive $5 million worth of Michigan grown commodities during the 2021-2022 school year, an increase from $2 million the previous year.  

Joni Lee prepares the potatoes (submitted photo).

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