Students lay groundwork for GRPS to have more access to locally grown produce

November 14, 2023 (Volume 47, Number 6)
Article by Michele Coffill

Students in the Grand Rapids Public Schools district have more access to Michigan grown produce thanks, in part, to Grand Valley graduate students in a social innovation class.

Daniela Marini, assistant professor of interdisciplinary studies, had students collaborate with Groundwork for Resilient Communities to assess the benefits and challenges of implementing the "10 Cents a Meal" program at four GRPS schools. The program is a school food reimbursement program that matches what districts spend on locally grown produce.

Marini said students conducted fieldwork and interviews to assess benefits and challenges of implementing the program and presented their findings and recommendations to the GRPS food and nutrition services staff.  

"The students had hands-on experience to apply theories of food system transformation," Marini said. "We discussed the ethical implications of environmental justice research." 

Melanie Wong, specialist for Groundwork for Resilient Communities, said school cafeterias are often the biggest restaurant in a neighborhood. Wong summarized the students' findings into a report that was shared with GRPS administrators.

"We relied on the students to generate innovative ideas for how the program could be implemented in the communities. They found resources and champions in each neighborhood that could help make the program a success," Wong said.

GRPS applied for the 10 Cents program grant last year and learned they were successful in June. The students in Marini's class completed case studies at César E. Chávez Elementary, Burton Middle, Martin Luther King Leadership Academy and Union High School.

Phillip Greene, food services director, said they recently submitted a renewal grant for this academic year.

"We have added more items to the salad bar," Greene said. "This opportunity has made us more aware of searching for local produce to purchase."

 

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This article was last edited on November 9, 2023 at 9:32 a.m.

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