Lansing, Mich – On October 14, 2021, Governor Whitmer, Lt. Governor Gilchrist and Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) Director Gary McDowell bit into Michigan apples to celebrate the Great Lakes Great Apple Crunch and Farm to School Month. They were joined by MDARD staff and their families as part of the celebration.
Similar apple crunches are occurring across Michigan and the Great Lakes region. Michigan K-12 schools, early care and education sites, hospitals, colleges and universities, farms, state and local agencies, non-profit organizations, local businesses, and Michigan families have been encouraged to celebrate Farm to School Month by collectively purchasing and crunching into Michigan-grown apples at 12 noon on Thursday, October 14, as part of the Great Lakes Great Apple Crunch, and then sharing their photos and videos on social media.
In 2020, 807,796 students, children, teachers, and good food supporters across the Great Lakes region crunched. The goal for 2021 is one million crunches. Participants registered their events to be counted in the Great Lakes Great Apple Crunch. Plans for participating include crunching from a socially distanced classroom, in apple orchards, via video conferences, in school gardens, from home, and many other safe and creative places.
“The Great Lakes Great Apple Crunch highlights the importance of bringing fresh, local foods to schools, preschools and other educational settings throughout the year,” said Whitmer. “We’re taking a bite out of food insecurity by supporting Michigan Farm to School programs and investing in our rural communities.”
Farm to school is a national program enriching the connection communities have with fresh, healthy food and local producers by changing food purchasing and education practices at schools and childcare education settings. Earlier this month, Governor Whitmer proclaimed October as Farm to School Month in Michigan to highlight the important connection between Michigan agriculture and healthy school lunches.
“Farm to school programs are a great way to include Michigan-grown and produced food on school lunch menus,” said McDowell. “I encourage you to take a crunch out of a delicious Michigan apple today to celebrate our farmers, growers, and the key role they play in providing nutritious foods for our kids and families.”
Through the Farm to School program, schools and preschools buy and feature locally produced, farm-fresh foods such as dairy, fruits and vegetables, eggs, honey, meat, and beans on their menus. Schools also incorporate nutrition-based curriculum and provide students with experiential learning opportunities like farm visits, garden-based learning, cooking lessons, and composting and recycling programs. As a result, students have access to fresh, local foods, and farmers have access to new markets through school sales. Farmers are also able to participate in programs designed to educate kids about local food and agriculture.
The Center for Regional Food Systems at Michigan State University, the Michigan Department of Education, MDARD, and local community and school food programs champion statewide Farm to School efforts.