Debbie Stabenow, Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, recently announced that Michigan will be one of only two states to participate in a new pilot program that gives schools increased ability to use locally produced fruits and vegetables in school lunches. The program, overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will help to boost Michigan's growing agriculture industry and provide healthy and fresher produce to school children.
"When we make things here and grow things here, we get jobs here," Chairwoman Stabenow says "Having Michigan schools buy locally from Michigan farmers helps boost our economy, and provides kids with fresher fruits and vegetables. Agriculture is Michigan's second largest industry and supports one out of every four jobs in our state, and this is a great way to help support a key sector of our economy."
Besides California, Michigan leads the nation in crop diversity, producing some 200 commodities on more than 10 million acres of farmland. Michigan also leads the nation in the production of several specialty crops including red tart cherries, blueberries, squash and cucumbers. The new pilot program, also being conducted in Florida, will use commercial distribution models that are already in place and allow schools to obtain Michigan's locally grown produce.
The pilot is a joint effort between USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service and Food and Nutrition Service and will serve as an alternative to the Department of Defense's commodity procurement program for schools. USDA is responsible for purchasing 15 to 20% of the foods that are used in the National School Lunch Program. Purchases include poultry, meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and oils. USDA Foods serve the dual purpose of supporting agricultural markets and providing nutritious foods to school children and needy Americans.