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.”

Nature Exploration Academy

Nature Exploration Academy

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?

East Richland Community Unit School District 1

East Richland Community Unit School District 1

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.

Hello Lydia,


Kreitner Elementary School

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?