The Illinois Crunch
Welcome to the Midwest Great Apple Crunch, a day-long local food celebration!
Registration is now open for the 2023 Crunch!
Click here to register your site, group, or organization.
The 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 Midwest Great Apple Crunch, which is also celebrated in the neighboring states of Iowa, 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!
Do you run an early care site? Read about the Crunch at The Day Nursery in Oak Park here.
Check out and share our Midwest Great Apple Crunch one-pager
Participating in the Illinois 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 community 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.
Mooseheart Child City & School in Kane County
Here are the steps to follow in order to participate:
- Register your school, feeding site, education program, residential program, or at-home group, business, or organization in our online form. The link will go live in August 2023.
- 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!
- Once you have registered check out the Crunch guides including K-12, Early Childcare, and At-Home/Community.
If you have any questions, please contact the Illinois Farm to School Network via email at: email@example.com.
There are many ways to celebrate with your family, in a group, at early childcare sites, and in garden or after-school programs. We’ve shared a few below.
Crunch Activities and Guides
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 for online lessons and activities!
- The Great Apple Crunch Crunch Coloring Pages
- Once registered download educational resources and fun activities from our Illinois Crunch Guide for a little inspiration!
- Green City Market Club Sprouts Corner Apple Tasting!
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.
Great Apple Crunch Guides
Are you registered for the Crunch? Then check out the 2022 Great Apple Crunch guides for K-12, Early Care and Home and Community crunchin! Click here to review the guides.
New! Zoom Apple Crunch Backgrounds
Celebrations for Schools, Early Care and More!
There are many ways to celebrate Apple Crunch. 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 the Menu
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 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 apples through the DOD Fruit and Vegetable Program, look for “local” tagged selections
- Source regional/local apples through your broadline or area produce distributors
- Buy apples from a local orchard, sourcing smaller apples that are hard for farmers to market
- Buy apples from a regional produce aggregator or food hub (USDA Local Food Hub Directory)
Here are just a few of the apple recipes we have for school lunch and CACFP/home use. Fresh Waldorf Salad for Food Service, CRANBERRY APPLESAUCE for CACFP & HOME, and Waldorf Cole Slaw for Food Service. 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.
Celebration Materials for Schools, Early Care and More!
There are many ways to celebrate Apple Crunch. Once registered you can check out our Great Apple Crunch Guides to explore fun ideas, promotions, and activities perfect for the cafeteria, community after-school programs and garden programs!
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! Happy Crunching!
We are sharing resources to take the Crunch home in boxed meals and into the virtual school room with online activities and education. We encourage home-school sites to join in and celebrate the Crunch! 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?
Do you need to find apples for your event? Smaller sites, groups at home, and early care sites can connect to U-pick, growers at farmers markets and local orchards to purchase bit-sized and smaller apples. These producers can also be a source for field trips, a host site for planned activities and education for kids, and more.
Mid-sized and larger sites can connect directly to an orchard in their area, buy via their DOD Fresh Fruit and Veg Program, or contact local food hubs and distributors to find apples in their region or area.
For teachers and parents planning a Crunch, the Crunch Guides provide information on buying local apples through your foodservice department or meal vendor, from local grocery and produce markets, farmer’s markets, produce distributors, and direct from area orchards.
Are you ready to buy local apples? Check out the search engines below.
Statewide Search- Click on Illinois
Full State Listings:
DOD Fresh Fruit and Veg Distributor Central Illinois:
Find a Food Hub here
Do you have funds available to purchase apples? Schools enrolled in the National School Lunch Program and/or the National School Breakfast Program have Local Food in Schools (LFS) funding available to purchase local foods. Is your school district enrolled in the LFS Grant Program at ISBE? If not you can read about this funding opportunity here. Does your school district know how much funding is available for local food purchasing in 2023/24? You can look up your district’s allotment here.
Does your site have wellness or health grant funds that may be a good fit for Apple Crunch? If you have a non-profit hospital in your community you may be a candidate for federal Community Benefit Dollars. You can read about this program here.
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!
Send your photos directly to firstname.lastname@example.org, or via 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.