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Fresh Crop of Michigan Farm-to-School Programs


Monday, April 12, 2010   

LANSING, Mich. - Michigan farmers are increasingly selling fresh fruits and vegetables to school lunch programs - which supporters say links K-12 students to agriculture, as well as provide access to less-processed, healthier food choices while boosting the local economy. Now the state's largest school districts have become part of the program, purchasing goods from urban farmers.

Many vacant properties in Michigan's largest cities are being transformed, so that instead of producing weeds they're producing food. Schools in Detroit, Grand Rapids and Flint are now participating in the Farm-to-School program, which links 60 schools with local farmers.

Colleen Matts is Farm-to-School specialist with the C.S. Mott Group at Michigan State University, which runs the statewide program. She says access to healthier foods is just one of the goals.

"To try to improve their consumption of fruits and vegetables, we increase their access to local fresh fruits and vegetables. But it also helps support our local farmers and our agriculture community in Michigan, and it keeps dollars circulating within Michigan communities. "

She says farmers visit the schools, and students often take field trips to farms. She says the program stresses the importance of understanding where the food we eat grows, and how it's processed.

"It does provide a good opportunity for food buyers to have a better understanding of where their food is coming from, how their food is grown, how the food gets to their door, because they have that direct communication with the person growing their food."

Michigan has the second-most-diverse agricultural establishment in the country behind California.

Next month, Detroit hosts the National Farm to Cafeteria Conference. Matts says that conference will allow Michigan to showcase urban farming industries in Flint and Detroit.

Vacant properties in Michigan's largest cities are allowing for more urban and community farms. Now students in Michigan's largest school districts are reaping the benefits of locally grown fruits and vegetables. Laura Thornquist reports.

Laura Thornquist reporting

Contact Colleen Matts, M.S.U./ C.S. Mott Group, Farm-to-School Specialist 517-432-0310

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