Building healthy and sustainable local food systems and communities is what MIFFS is all about, and we’re striving to do that in Covert, Michigan through the Covert Schools Healthy Snacks Project.
The inspiration for this project came when farmers the small town of Covert learned of the opportunities that have been created in the 2008 Farm Bill during summer and fall outreach sessions in 2009. Farmers recognized that they were looking a tremendous opportunity to build a better, healthier food system in their area that could benefit everyone in their community.
The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, which was made available nationwide in the 2008 Farm Bill, provides free fresh fruits and vegetables to all students in schools where at least 50% of the students are eligible for free or reduced price lunches. In the Covert School System, 90% of the nearly 700 pre-school through grade 12 students are eligible for free or reduced priced lunches. This program provides fresh fruits and vegetables to students as a snack, rather than a lunch item. The goal of this project is to have at least 30% of the fruits and vegetables purchased by the Covert School System for the school meal programs purchased locally the third year of this project.
In addition to providing nutritious snacks to school children, this program hopes to help Covert area farmers increase the economic viability of their current farming operations. Developing lower cost methods for intensive production on small acreages, establishing local markets for their produce, providing agricultural business management training and connecting to valuable resources through USDA programs and other organizations are all ways of making these small farms more successful.
The ultimate goal of this program is not only for Covert to have a thriving, sustainable local food system but to a model local food system that can be used across the country that brings small-scale, socially disadvantaged farmers together to produce and market their fruits and vegetables locally to schools through the USDA Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program and get more locally grown in the school meal and snack programs.