Over 1 million people in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio bit into locally grown apples at noon on Thursday, Oct. 13 during the Great Lakes Great Apple Crunch.
Approximately 240,000 students and 13,500 adults from 546 schools and 86 other organizations across the state of Minnesota registered to participate in the third annual Great Lakes Great Apple Crunch. University of Minnesota Extension staff in health and nutrition, as well as Minnesota's Farm to School Leadership Team, were integral to the success of this year's crunch in Minnesota. "We truly had a coordinated effort," said Stephanie Heim, associate program director in health and nutrition and Minnesota state lead for the National Farm to School Network.
The event is part of is Farm to School Month, a time during which U of M Extension and statewide partners recognize the importance of farm to school programs as a means to improve child nutrition, support local economies, and educate children about the origins of food.
Local media covered the crunch at the Dover-Eyota Elementary School in Rochester, MN, where Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) Commissioner David Frederickson and his staff led the communal crunching (see Kids honor farmers with a tasty bite).
“It’s amazing to see how the Great Apple Crunch has grown,” said Stephanie. “Last year, 94,000 people participated and this year we had more than double that number.” This growth is echoed in the rise of farm to school practices in Minnesota over the past 10 years. According to the USDA Farm to School Census, 268 school districts in Minnesota participated in farm to school practices in the 2014-2015 school year. This is up from 18 in 2006 and 145 in 2011.
To encourage the adoption of farm to school practices in Minnesota, U of M Extension and Minnesota Department of Health co-convened a statewide Farm to School Leadership Team in April 2011. To learn more about the leadership team's work, visit Cross Sector Collaboration: A Report from the Minnesota Farm to School Leadership Team.