Illinois Great Apple Crunch
Welcome to the Illinois Great Apple Crunch, a day-long local food celebration!
The Illinois Great Apple Crunch is an annual celebration of fresh, local apples on the second Thursday of October, during National Farm to School Month. The Illinois Crunch is part of the Great Lakes Great Apple Crunch, which is also celebrated in the neighboring states of Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Schools, early child care facilities, and other child education programs across Illinois can participate by serving local apples on the lunch tray or in the classroom, and ‘crunch’-ing into them together all at the same time. The Illinois Farm to School Network helps participants locate local orchards and provides promotional tools and educational supplements that teach students all about Illinois apples.
Check out the tabs in this section to learn about the many ways you can Crunch in school, at home, in groups and at early childhood education sites across Illinois. Even organizations and Illinois businesses can Crunch along on the second Thursday in October. Happy Crunching!
Check out and share our Great Apple Crunch one-pager
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. Kids at home with families and groups can Crunch, too!
Crunching into local apples on Apple Crunch day, which is always the second Thursday in October, can become a yearly event at your school, program site, business, or family group. 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 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:
- Register your school, feeding site, education program, residential program, or or at-home group, business, or organization in our online form (registration opens on June 25). You will see the link go live HERE.
- 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!
- Visit your local farmers market and seek out local apples. Or, visit your local orchard and spend the afternoon picking, eating, and learning about these wonderful apples!
- Download educational resources and fun activities, including the Crunch Guides for Illinois.
If you have any questions, please contact the Illinois Farm to School Network.
NEW!!! Families at home can register for the Crunch and celebrate alongside schools, early care and garden programs across the state. Registration goes live on June 25 (here) for the 2021 Crunch!
Ways to celebrate with your family:
Crunch at Home Activities
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!
- Munchy Crunchy Apples! song for little kids
- Why Are There So Many Types of Apples? TEDTalk for older kids
- Heritage Apple Varieties orchard tour; Saving varieties from the past!
Use these wonderful resources at home and online!
Read an apple book. Try one of these suggestions from DesMoinesParents.com
Ten Apples Up on Top by Dr. Seuss
Up, Up, Up It’s Apple Picking Time by Jody Fickes Shapiro
Apples, Apples, Apples by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace
A Day at the Apple Orchard by Megan Faulkner
Applesauce Season by Eden Ross Lipson
The Apple Orchard Riddle by Margaret McNamara
The Seasons of Arnold’s Apple Tree by Gail Gibbons
Apples, Apples Everywhere! By Robin Koontz
Cook with Apples! Try a new recipe and cook with your kids.
Create a Crunch on Zoom at home with socially distanced 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.
New! Zoom Apple Crunch backgrounds
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
- 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.
- 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.
- During the lunch periods, have all of your students’ CRUNCH into their apples at the same time! It’s fun and loud!
- 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
Create a Crunch on Zoom for your virtual classroom. 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
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, literature and art lessons. Here are several lessons and virtual tours available all about apples!
Virtual Apple Production Lesson grd 3-5 (Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation)
For Early Child Care: Watch virtual tours, play and taste!
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.
Set up a virtual Crunch with family members and neighborhood friends. Take a screen shot of your Crunch, or a video and share it on social media using the tags #GreatAppleCrunch #ILGreatAppleCrunch
For Meal Service: Create Your Crunch in Boxed and To-Go Meals at School!
Are you feeding remotely during or 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.
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!
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?
Do you need help to make your Crunch the best it can be? Look for an agency, organization or local business to partner with for your Apple Crunch. Local health department, non-profit hospitals and community-minded businesses and organizations would make a great fit to bring healthy food education and food experiences into your school or community site!
Annual Apple Crunch Reports