The Michigan Department of Education has received a nearly $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for building and retaining a strong school nutrition workforce, improving standards for school meals and partnering with local farmers and producers to access local food.
Samia Hamdan, special nutrition programs division director for the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service Agency Midwest Regional Office, said the grant supports the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs, which provide free or low-cost nutritious meals to students, as well as nutrition education.
“There’s been a lot of labor shortages across the country, and we’ve experienced a lot of turnover in the school nutrition professions,” Hamdan reported. “This will really help support coaching and mentoring, but ultimately with the goal of providing nutrition education and nutritious meals to kids across the state of Michigan.”
The state also plans to award sub-grants to local school food authorities, for purchasing supplies and small kitchen equipment for food demonstrations and tastings, and for printing educational materials.
Hamdan noted in addition to providing nutritious meals, some funding will increase access to information for students and their families.
“They are also going to be adapting to the various languages in the state that are common besides English, of course,” Hamdan explained. “They’ll be adapting it for Somali, Hmong, Arabic and Spanish-speaking audiences.”
Michigan students are eligible for free meals through the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs if their families earn up to 130% of the federal poverty level, just over $28,000 a year for a family of three. If their household earns between 130% and 185% of the federal poverty level, up to about $42,000 a year, they can qualify for reduced-cost meals.