On Oct. 11, participants across the state all “crunched” together at noon for the 2018 Great Lakes Great Apple Crunch. The event was part of the multistate National Farm to School Month. The diverse mix of registered sites included schools, garden and after school programs, juvenile justice centers, residential programs and other organizations.

Illinois topped the region in celebrating local apples with 582,711 total crunches across our state. That’s 1,226 individual sites with 1,178 preschool crunchers; 570,115 kindergarten through grade -12  students children, and 11,418 adults all crunching into locally grown apples. Across the region, in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, a combined total of 1,563,153 crunchers participated. You can view the official 2018 Illinois Great Apple Crunch report and all previous reports (2015-2017) here.

Each state’s Farm to School Network facilitates its Great Lakes Great Apple Crunch. The Illinois Farm to School Network launched the first Illinois Great Apple Crunch in 2015, and the celebration has continued to grow each year:

  •   2015: 35,000 Illinois crunchers
  •   2016: 339,103 Illinois crunchers
  •   2017: 469,848 Illinois crunchers
  •   2018: 583,925 Illinois crunchers

The Crunch in Illinois grew by 24.2 percent  from 2017 to 2018. Next year, we anticipate Illinois’ participation to surpass 600,000 students and adults.

Local and regional apple purchases have grown as well. Sites purchased local apples through their foodservice or directly from local vendors.

Some local suppliers included Get Fresh Produce, Inc. in Bartlett, which sourced apples from Rendleman Orchards in Alto Pass, and Flamm Orchards in Cobden to supply 60,240 pounds of Illinois Apples to 310 schools (an increase from last year of 9,880 pounds and 57 schools). Cristina Foods, Inc. in Chicago distributed approximately 8,000 pounds of Michigan McIntosh apples. Kuipers Family Farm in Maple Park supplied one school with 648 pounds of Fuji, Empire and Jonathan apples. Central Illinois Produce, Vermilion Valley sold 4,000 pounds of Illinois apples for the Crunch; and FarmLogix moved 167,919 pounds of apples from Michigan and Indiana to multiple school buyers during Crunch Week.

Sites employed a variety of tactics in their celebrations. They had participants bit into local apples together in cafeterias, hung up new annual Illinois Great Apple Crunch posters, used apple-based recipes and taste tests, got local media involved, and much more!

  • Oak Park-River Forest High School District 200 created a contest for students to guess apple varieties;
  • Oak Park Day Nursery shared a lesson with Sandy Noel, a visiting food educator, and created fun “apple spiders” and served cinnamon apple chips made from local apples.  
  • A teacher at Bethel Grade School donned an apple costume and handed out apples at lunch.
  • Students at Mooseheart Child and City School created their own Apple Crunch posters.
  • Lewistown School District 97 featured a taste test in the cafeteria with different varieties from their hometown orchard.
  • Chicago Public School Luke O’Toole Elementary featured a taste test with middle school students who ranked their favorites.
  • Beaupre Elementary School had a visit from the USDA’s Office of Community Food Systems’ director and Midwest Farm-to-School Regional Lead (see more here).
  • Wheeling Community Consolidated School District 21 celebrated with a handmade photo frame.

IFSN staff joined two sites on Crunch Day to help celebrate and broadcast: the Oak Park Day Nursery and East Aurora Preschool. Other sites, such as St. Francis Solanus in Quincy, and Buncombe Grade School in Vienna, also shared their Crunch online and with local media outlets.

Registered sites shared their photos of all things Crunch with us and on social media using the hashtags #GreatAppleCrunch, #ILapplecrunch, and #F2Smonth. You can still your Crunch photos with us on the “Send us Photos” tab on our Apple Crunch page.

Thank you for making this our biggest Crunch ever, and see you next October for the 2019 Crunch!