Illinois Great Apple Crunch

Registration for Apple Crunch 2021 will begin in late August.  If you are a K-12, early childhood or boarding facility, afterschool or garden program or an Illinois business, agency or organization wishing to Crunch! into local apples in October 2021 watch for the registration announcement in our newsletter

What’s an Apple Crunch?                 

All K-12 schools, early childhood sites, boarding facilities or community programs, along with businesses and organizations across Illinois can join us to Crunch! into local apples in October. Click on the tabs on this page to discover the many ways you can celebrate local apples in October. This is a free program for all Illinois sites!
Once you register, check out our new and improved Crunch! Guides for Illinois located on the Celebration Tab. If you cannot crunch on October 8, you can adjust your crunch plans and choose any day in October.
Join us for the loudest Crunch! heard across the Great Lakes!
**Should the health crisis continue into October, the IL Great Apple Crunch will share at-home and “Apple Crunch Boxed” tools to continue participation in the Crunch.


Celebration Materials for the Cafeteria

There are many ways to celebrate Apple Crunch. You can check out the Great Apple Crunch Guide for K-12 sites,  for early childhood sites and office crunches to explore fun ideas, promotions, and activities perfect for the cafeteria!

Organizing the Great Apple Crunch Day in your cafeteria can be as easy as crunching into local apples at the halfway point of your lunch period(s) and snapping photos of your staff and students to share on social media. You can also utilize apple recipes all month long via school food service and promote local apples in several different ways. Featuring a weekly Apple Fun Fact with a new recipe on the lunch menu can build interest in the main event and keep your students engaged throughout the month of October! You can find tools for both methods of cafeteria participation listed below. Happy Crunching!

The Cafeteria Crunch

On Crunch Day, be sure to announce the event in the cafeteria. A teacher or school administrator could announce the event, or if you have multiple lunch periods, you could give information and instructions to a school cafeteria worker to read aloud to the students. Make sure that all students and staff know that this is the Great Apple Crunch by advertising and sharing the upcoming event in school announcements, on your school’s website, and on social media.

Cafeteria Day-of Announcement Example: 

“Students, don’t eat your apples yet! Today is the Illinois Great Apple Crunch and we are going to CRUNCH into our apples together alongside students from across the Midwest. The apples on our plates are from a local farm (add more details about where the apples are from!). Apples take many months to grow and it’s important to eat them in the fall when they are fresh. Midwestern apples are crispy, crunchy and sweet. Eating local apples is great for the state of Illinois!

Now, on the count of five, let’s CRUNCH together! 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, CRUNCH!”

Steps for a Successful Cafeteria Crunch

  1. Announce the Crunch
    • During lunch, or whenever the apples are served, be sure to announce the Crunch to the students. Feel free to speak about the Crunch on your own or read from our pre-made ‘script,’ found above.
  2. Hang posters! Every site that registers for the IL Great Apple Crunch may request a free poster for use in the cafeteria or classroom! Contact us after you receive your registration confirmation email to receive an 18″ x 24″ copy, or feel free to download and print this PDF.
  3. Display the name of the apple farm in the lunch line. You can find this listed on the box of apples or contact your produce distribution company to get this information.
  4. During the lunch periods, have all of your students’ CRUNCH into their apples at the same time! It’s fun and loud!
  5. Take a photo of your students CRUNCHING and submit it to us on the website or share with us via social media that day!

Adding Local Apples to School Menus

The best way to educate about good health and eating right, and create interest in local foods is to repeat the number of times your students are exposed to the food. Everyone knows kids like apples. However, sharing information about how apples are grown, where they are grown and fun facts about apples like “how many apples does it take to make an apple pie?” will make learning interesting and fun.  This can be accomplished by serving local apples once a week throughout October in honor of the Great Apple Crunch and National Farm to School Month and celebrating apples every time.

When you feature a local apple recipe, be sure to share interesting facts about those apples. Nutrition facts and facts about apple varieties grown in Illinois, along with the location of the orchards in your area (check our Finding Apples tab) are a great way to keep your students engaged. You can find fun and nutrition facts from the University of Illinois Extension here. And, from the Illinois Farm Bureau here.

Local Apple Recipes for School Meals

Do you need help to find local or regional apples for your food service? Here are a few ways to get those local apples on your lunch tray!

  • Source identified local apples through the DOD Fruit and Vegetable Program, look for “local” tagged selections
  • Buy apples from a local orchard, sourcing smaller apples that are hard for farmers to market
  • Buy apples at your local Farmers Market! (ILFMA Market Search)
  • Buy apples from a regional produce aggregator or food hub (Illinois Food Hub Directory)
  • Source identified regional/local apples through your broadline or area produce distributors

Here are just a few of the apple recipes we have for school lunch. These recipes come from our Illinois Harvest of the Month program and have been developed for food service with nutritional data and USDA meal components included.

Due to the onset of COVID-19 we are taking the Crunch home in boxed meals and into the virtual world with online activities and education. Please contact us if you need assistance or suggestions to celebrate your Crunch in new and exciting ways!

The  Virtual Crunch at Home

Create a Crunch on Zoom at home with friends and family members. Zoom ‘s free version is perfect for adding up to 100 participants with a 40-minute maximum group meeting. Sharing screens and Crunching in unison is a great way to enjoy the event safely. Want to share your Crunch? Screen shot your Crunch and share it on social media with the hashtag #greatapplecrunch, #ILapplecrunch. When you incorporate fun facts, worksheets or coloring sheets found online, and in our Celebration and Education Materials tabs you share local food education with your family of crunchers.

New! Zoom Apple Crunch backgrounds

IFSN Virtual Apple Crunch 2020

Directions for Zoom Backgrounds

Crunch at Home Activites

Go apple picking or apple shopping at a local orchard or at your farmers market. It’s a great way to spend some time outside and connect with local growers. Plus you can get the freshest apples around—and maybe a little cider, apple pie, or a yummy caramel apple.

Sing an Apple Crunch song with your little ones and watch a video with older siblings!

Use these wonderful resources at home and online!

Read an apple book. Try one of these suggestions from

Cook with Apples! Try a new recipe and cook with your kids.

At School: Connect Your Crunch to the Virtual Classroom

Crunch in your virtual classroom and create fun educational activities via a live-stream networking platform. Participation in the Great Apple Crunch can support science, math, literrature and art lessons. Here are several lessons and virtual tours available all about apples!

Contact Ag in the Classroom Virtual Farm Tours to reserve and watch the virtual field trip to the Braeutigam Apple Orchard in Bellview, IL.

Virtual Apple Production Lesson grd 3-5 (Iowa Agriculture Literacy Fouundation) 

My Familiy’s Apple Farm video (Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation) 

John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed Lesson from ReadWriteThink

The Best Apple Science Activities grades PreK -2 from We Are Teachers

22 APPLE-LICIOUS CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES grades preK-2 from Teach Junkie.

Meal Service: Create Your Crunch in Boxed and To-Go Meals at School!

Are you feeding at the end of the instruction day or delivering boxed foods to your families? You can still celebrate the Crunch and add Illinois apples with a bit of crunch fun and education right in the box! Check out the Celebration tab for apple recipes to send home in the box or with a meal.

Download Apple Fun Facts and Ideas to Educate from the Illinois Harvest of the Month public outreach folder here

Educational Materials for the Classroom

The Illinois Great Apple Crunch is a great time to celebrate local foods and agriculture through classroom activities. Here are a number of ideas for ways to bring the Apple Crunch to life:

  1. Lesson Plans
    1. Johnny Appleseed lesson plans
    2. Michigan apples educational kit
    3. Apple orchard pre-school lesson plans
    4. Green Mountain Farm Field Trip Guide
    5. Apple SMART Board lessons from Illinois Ag in the Classroom or access the lessons via Power Point here.
    6. Oregon Agriculture in the Classroom Lesson Plans: Apples! 
    7. Columbus City Public Schools & Ag in the Classroom Lesson Plans Apples: Grades K-2, Apples! Grades 3-5
  2. Share the Illinois Apple Ag Mag during the school day. Order your copy through Illinois Ag in the Classroom. Or, download the magazine here.
  3. Print out the “Why I Crunch” sheet and use it as an activity for students.
  4. Have your students dress up for the Apple Crunch – wearing a t-shirt in the color of their favorite type of apple. Your school will look like a stop light with students dressed in red, yellow and green!
  5. Read a book about apples during your classroom story time. Check out your local county Ag in the Classroom office to borrow a book or two.
  6. For Early Child Care students, do a fun craft project about apples. Little Bins for Little Hands has lessons for Early Childcare!
  7. Go on a field trip to an orchard or participate in a virtual field trip online.
  8. Cook with apples in the classroom! Have a creative apple snack.
  9. Use the Great Apple Crunch day to do garden work with your students. If you don’t have a school garden, see if there is a community garden in your area where your students could volunteer.

Participating in the Illinois Great Apple Crunch is easy. It’s a celebration of local food, namely, apples! You can purchase local apples for your celebration in a number of ways, and your celebration can be held in the cafeteria, outside in a garden or lawn space, or in the classroom. Crunching into local apples on Apple Crunch day, which is always the second Thursday in October, can become a yearly event at your school, or program site. We encourage participants to include educational enrichment activities on that day to promote the knowledge of where food comes from and healthy eating habits.

Please share your Crunch on your school’s social media pages! Add a photo of your Crunch with the hashtag #GreatAppleCrunch and #ILGreatAppleCrunch. Check out the hashtag on Crunch day to see Crunches from all over the Midwest.

Enos School in Springfield, IL
Here are the steps to follow in order to participate:
  1. Register your school, feeding site, education program, residential program, or business in our online form (registration opens in June).
  2. Locate a source to buy your local apples. We strongly suggest purchasing the apples as opposed to asking for a donation of apples! Farm to School programming was created, in part, to support local producers.
    • Do you have a meal program onsite? Contact your food service manager and share information on the program. Ask them to include local apples on the menu for the second Thursday in October. Adding local apples to the menu should be easy for your food service staff. If there are any questions about which local farms are selling apples, ask your district food service manager to contact their produce vendor and inquire about the availability of local or regional, fresh, whole apples. If your produce vendor isn’t sure where to buy local apples, please contact the Illinois Farm to School Network or the Illinois Farm Bureau for more in-depth assistance. 
    • Locate a local orchard and request pricing on smaller-sized apples. Many times orchards do not have a robust market for smaller apples, which could be a benefit for you! Check the Crunch Guide for ways to locate orchards near you!
  3. Request materials! After you register, contact the Illinois Farm to School Network (below) to request a poster for your site(s). Hang the poster up in the cafeteria or in a central location. After you register your site, contact us with your name, address and number of posters requested. All poster requests must be received by September 23rd.
  4. Download educational resources, including the Crunch Guides for Illinois

If you have any questions, please contact the Illinois Farm to School Network.

Where can I find local apples?

The Crunch Guide provides information on buying local apples from your foodservice department or meal vendor, from local grocery and produce markets, farmer’s markets, produce distributors, and direct from area orchards. Check out the Crunch Guides to see all of the tips and best practices in locating and purchasing local apples for your event! 

  • Look for orchards near you at Marker Maker, at the University of IL Extension and  Orange Pippin.
  • Do you have funds available to purchase apples? Ask your participating food service department to purchase additional apples for your taste test, or for brown-bag kids at your site. To help your food service department pay for those extra apples look for ways to raise money through your PTA or PTO, or with donations from local businesses and supporters. Does your site have wellness or health grant funds that may be a good fit for Apple Crunch?

Send your photos to or through this photo form:

Annual Apple Crunch Reports

Illinois has been participating in the Great Lakes Great Apple Crunch since 2015. You can view a report for each year below. For a more in-depth overview about farm to school programming in Illinois, see the inaugural (2015) report.

Illinois Apple Crunch Sponsors

The Illinois Great Apple Crunch is an event coordinated by many agencies. Thank you to all of our sponsors for helping make this event possible each year!