Attention Michigan farmers: Schools are looking for more vegetables and beans

USDA School Meals Program offers financial incentive for menus serving more beans and dark green, orange and yellow vegetables starting fall 2012.

Starting in the fall of 2012, public schools and Head Start programs funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National School Lunch Program will receive an additional $0.06 per meal if they serve lunches with dark green, orange and yellow vegetables each week. 

The Healthier US School Challenge program publishes a list of the following recommended dark green vegetables:

  • Beet greens
  • Bok Choy
  • Broccoli
  • Collard greens
  • Dark green
  • Leafy lettuce (or mesclun)
  • Endive
  • Escarole
  • Kale
  • Mustard greens
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Swiss chard
  • Turnip greens
  • Watercress

The list of orange and yellow vegetables is:

  • Butternut squash
  • Carrots
  • Hubbard squash
  • Pumpkin
  • Sweet potatoes

TheUSDA’s fact sheet with more details on this incentive as well as the nutritional information to support these menu changes can be found online.

Schools and Head Start programs who want to become eligible for the additional $0.06 reimbursement are also required to serve at least one serving per week of beans and peas. Varieties listed under this recommendation include:

  • Black beans
  • Black-eyed peas
  • Garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
  • Great Northern beans
  • Kidney beans
  • Lentils
  • Lima beans
  • Navy (pea) beans
  • Pink beans
  • Pinto beans
  • Red beans
  • Soybeans
  • Split peas

Kendra Wills, a Michigan State University (MSU) Extension Educator based in Grand Rapids, Mich., working to promote farm-to-school programs in west Michigan, is working to connect school food service directors to local farmers.  Wills connected with Jerry Davis, a dry bean grower in northern Kent and Montcalm Counties to find information about how schools can purchase the beans he grows. Davis referred Wills to Carlson-Arbogast Farms based in Howard City, Michigan. Carlson-Arbogast Farms are members of the Michigan Bean Commission, which is responsible for promoting locally grown beans. Wills will work to connect schools to this resource in the next few weeks as schools are working now to prepare fall menus.

Farmers interested in selling these highly desired vegetables and beans to school districts should review Michigan Farm-to-School Program’s “Marketing Michigan Products: A Step-by-Step Guide,” which is available online for free. The Michigan Farm-to-School website also has resources for school food directors on how to purchase local produce as well as grant resources.

MSU Extension and the MSU Product Center are also encouraging farmers who grow dark green, yellow and orange vegetables as well as beans to create (or update) their profile on Michigan MarketMaker as this is becoming a widely used online tool to connect growers and institutional food buyers.

MSU Extension’s Community Food Systems Workgroup and the newly launched MSU Center for Regional Food Systems are working to increase access to Michigan grown foods. To connect with these resources, contact Kendra Wills at (616) 336-2028 or via email by clicking on her name.

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