Whether, or not, you have children who attend a K-12 school many of us are familiar with the issues surrounding school lunch. It’s not hard to form an opinion of a program which feeds more than 31 million U.S. children each school day. With nutrition and meal program requirements in flux at the federal level, school staff are struggling just to keep up. Meanwhile, the children they serve are finding it difficult to accept these new standards as their school meals shift in size, choices and ultimately, in taste.
How do schools teach their students to enjoy squash, spinach, or beets?
What if I told you school lunch has an ally in the fight to serve healthier meals? Farm to School can help schools change how kids view the new and improved lunch tray! Do you want to know how this national program is helping school lunch? To learn more, join us on March 3, 2017 at the Northern Illinois Food Bank in Geneva as we educate and then celebrate all things Farm to School in Northern Illinois!
On March 3rd, there’s something for everyone starting in the morning with accredited trainings for school staff, leading into an afternoon of family education and activities on gardening and local foods. Later, join us for our keynote speaker, Shawna Coronado and an after-celebration: The Farmhouse Fete!
Whether you’re familiar with the Farm to School movement, or interested in discovering how we can help you change young children’s eating habits, we have activities, fun and education for you!
School lunch has a new partner. Join us to see what the future of school lunch looks like!
Learn more about Farm to School Day HERE.
The Illinois Farm to School Network is hosting a full day of activities and trainings for schools and families across Northern Illinois. Save the date for March 3rd, 2017 – Farm to School Day!
We are offering workshops for teachers and food service professionals, activities in the afternoon for families (bring the kids), and an inspiring evening with a keynote and fun farm to table celebration. Learn more at the Farm to School Day site here. Register for the event on Eventbrite. Looking forward to seeing you there!
Did you hear that? That’s the sound of Illinois Farm to School participation on the rise!
By Diane Chapeta, Illinois Farm to School Network
“CRUNCH!” That was the sound heard across Illinois yesterday as 350,000 students took a bite out of local apples in cafeterias, on playgrounds, and in their classrooms. The second annual Illinois Great Apple Crunch, a part of the Midwest Apple Crunch and inspired by the Food Day Apple Crunch, has taken apples out of Illinois orchards, literally, and placed them into the hands of Illinois students.
You may be thinking “Apples- kids… that’s not exactly news.”
Well, you’d be wrong. Let me explain.
It’s true that children have a propensity toward eating apples. Apples make up the second largest category of fruit eaten by school-age children in our country, with bananas topping that list. Kindergarten students sing songs about Johnny Appleseed, a real American pioneer nurseryman by the name of John Chapman who introduced apple trees to large parts of Pennsylvania, Ontario, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, as well as the northern counties of present-day West Virginia. And, you can trace apple lore all the way back to the beginning of our country’s history. Apples have inspired songs and popular sayings like “An apple a day keeps the doctor away!” and “As American as apple pie!” So, why all the fuss when Illinois students bite into apples on a beautiful, sunny day in October?
Local. A very powerful word. Education. Another, equally powerful word. When you incorporate both into a school activity designed to reach thousands of kids across our state you begin to make a change in how those kids perceive fresh food, and who sells those fresh foods to school programs.
How can Illinois school children biting into Illinois apples not be a win/win?
Yesterday, our office joined the Apple Crunch festivities at Rockford Public Schools, along with Acting Branch Chief Eleanor Thompson of the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), Midwest Regional branch. We were excited to be part of this event for two reasons. First, this was Rockford Public School’s first foray into the Great Apple Crunch. And, second? This is the first time our state stood firmly in the lead for Apple Crunch participation during the Mid-West Crunch! Yes!
That last fact is very telling, indeed. It tells us that schools across Illinois are beginning to participate in farm to school activities. And, as more and more districts begin activities integrating farm to school into their lunch programs and classrooms, local foods and food education are slowly taking center stage.
As of yesterday, Rendleman’s Orchard in Alto Hills, IL, an Illinois Centennial Farm and a supplier to the Crunch, was sold out of smaller sized apples. Those small apples have the least amount of “marketability” for local growers. And, selling out of small apples? That was a direct result of participation in the Illinois Great Apple Crunch.
I want to thank you for all the work you have done to promote healthy eating and local produce in our Illinois schools. The movement also has a huge impact for family farms and the Illinois rural economy. It was exciting to see our apples in the school’s cafeteria through the picture attached. Thank You!
Wayne Sirles, President Rendleman’s Orchard
More local food being purchased by local schools.
More student education on nutrition and whole foods.
Really, what’s not to love?
300,000 Illinois Students Celebrate Farm to School Month with a CRUNCH!
By Lydia Mills, Illinois State Lead, National Farm to School Network
Illinois apples made National School Lunch Week and Farm to School Month a success across the state on Thursday, October 13th, 2016, as over 300,000 students crunched into local apples all at the same time. The Illinois Great Apple Crunch is a one-day event all about promoting locally grown apples, and this year more than double the schools participated in purchasing local food and engaged in celebratory, educational activities.
In northern Illinois, Rockford Public School District 205 celebrated the Illinois Great Apple Crunch with apples from Rendleman Orchard in Alto Pass. Wayne Sirles, president and owner of the farm, noted on the Crunch: “The movement has a huge impact for family farms and the Illinois rural economy. It was exciting to see our apples in the school’s cafeteria.”
Representatives from the Illinois Farm to School Network, USDA Food and Nutrition Service, and the local media attended lunch at Riverdahl Elementary and cheered as students crunched into their apples. Students called the taste of the Illinois-grown apples both sour and sweet, and the green apples were a hit. Eleanor Thompson, Acting Branch Chief of the Midwest Regional Office, praised the school for their efforts. The apples, along with colorful materials designed to celebrate National School Lunch Week, made for an appealing cafeteria environment on the Apple Crunch day.
This fun farm to school program has galvanized Rockford Public School District from district offices to classrooms of all ages. Rolando Saucedo, Production Supervisor for the Nutrition Services, said: “We also sent apples to all administrative staff, teachers and all other support staff! Our final estimate of participation would be around 23,000 staff and students crunched apples in Rockford Public Schools District 205.”
The Rockford district is also a participant in the Illinois Farm to School Network’s pilot program, Illinois Harvest of the Month. Putting local foods on the menu not only supports local farmers, it also enhances the meal tray and makes kids excited to eat school food. If your school is interested in participating in more farm to school programs, check out the resources on the Illinois Farm to School website.