On July 20, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer chose Suttons Bay High School as the venue to sign the state’s record-setting new education budget which allocates $24.3 billion for pre-K through 12th grade during the coming school year. Whitmer said the programs funded by the budget will help achieve education equity across Michigan. The new allowance per student will be $9,608 with more funding for students with disabilities, low-income families and English-language learners. “We know that potential is universal, but opportunity is not,” Whitmer said. “And when we make investments in the education of our kids, we’re creating opportunity for all. This is how we level the playing field. This is how we ensure that every student is prepared to be successful.” “It’s about priority,” Suttons Bay Superintendent Casey Petz told the Sun. “If we’re gonna put our money where our mouth is, this is the place to come. Suttons Bay has an incredibly diverse student population. We have a high-needs population. When a Governor and her team make it a point to come to a place like this, what they’re saying is, ‘We see you. We hear you’.”

Twenty-plus years ago, Diane Conners saw an opportunity to trade her work in journalism for a more diverse career. She began working with farmers, conservationists, policy makers and others committed to protecting the land, the environment and a way of life she’d come to treasure in Leelanau County. Turned out, it was turning to the land. She shifted gears and began working for the Michigan Land Use Institute—now the Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities. Conners authored the book “Shared Abundance: Lessons in Building Community Around Locally Grown Food” just prior to her retirement. Groundwork Center dubs it “Part gorgeous, story-filled coffee-table book and part local food economy strategy manual.”

Nic Welty, farmer and owner of 9 Bean Rows, is one of the key people behind the emergence in 2015 of the MI Farm Cooperative which brings together 12 different farms to collaboratively meet the needs of schools, restaurants, caterers, and as of this past fall, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) box purchasers.

FoodCorps recognizes that healthy eating is important for students, not only for their physical health, but also for their educational success. However, simply telling students that they should eat well does not result in healthier students. Students in low-income areas often face food insecurity. They don’t know where their next meal may come from, let alone if it will be a healthy option. Fifty-seven percent of students enrolled in Suttons Bay Elementary School last year were considered economically disadvantaged and qualified for free and reduced-price meals. In Michigan a family of four that makes less than $32,630 per year qualifies for the program.

The Michigan legislature is considering whether to continue, or expand, a new state pilot project that is increasing business from schools for a significant number of farms and related food companies throughout the state and in Leelanau County.