Listen closely and the sound of an orchestrated bite into 1.5 million local apples resonates across the Great Lakes states every October.
More than 200,000 Ohioans registered for the 2018 Great Lakes Apple Crunch, a fun, educational moment in October organized by the National Farm to School Network and celebrated across Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio. The collective crunch intends to bring awareness to local food, the Farm to School program and, in Ohio, the state’s rank as a top 10 apple producer.
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“The Great Lakes Great Apple Crunch is just what it sounds like,” says Carol Smathers, a field specialist at Ohio State University Extension and director of Ohio Farm to School, which helps bring local foods to school menus. “It’s a chance for classrooms, groups, employers, city leaders, whoever to gather together and all crunch into a local apple at the same time. As a local food, apples unite the Great Lakes states and they unite Ohioans of all ages and all backgrounds and all places where people just love to eat apples.”
Held every October since 2014, the six-state event recognizes National Farm to School Month, National Apple Month and prime apple-picking season at Ohio’s more than 100 orchards. While the official collective crunch occurs at noon on a designated day in October, Ohio Farm to School invites groups to register at cias.wisc.edu/applecrunch and celebrate a crisp Ohio-grown apple and other local foods throughout the entire month.
Ohioans also can help the state win a friendly competition of the most registered “crunchers” among the participating Great Lakes states, where more than 1.5 million kids and adults participated in the 2018 crunch last year. Ohio itself registered more than double the crunchers over 2017, recruiting more than 198,500 youth and nearly 7,500 adults at 571 sites across the state.
Non-school registrants, like businesses, government agencies and day cares, can receive free apple resource materials to help plan a crunch event. Registering schools receive access to apple-focused educational materials that meet learning standards, making Ohio-grown apples a great fit both in the classroom and on the cafeteria menu.
“It’s so fun to see the imagination that schools use to celebrate the crunch,” Smathers says. “I was at one school where they had kids dressed in apple costumes. You can tell they spent all week learning about apples and incorporating it into their learning activities.”