Students from La Crosse County and La Crescent-Hokah schools will show their support for local farmers by biting into locally grown apples at school on Thursday, October 22nd. La Crosse area students will join schools from throughout Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio by participating in the Great Lakes Great Apple Crunch. This annual event is held in conjunction with Food Day, and also falls during National Farm to School Month.
Apples from Ecker’s Apple Farm will be featured on the menu at Coulee Region Farm2School sites to celebrate the Great Apple Crunch. Ecker’s Apple Farm is located in Trempealeau, WI and has been family owned and operated since 1945. While all schools are participating in the Great Apple Crunch, each school is showcasing Ecker’s apples a little differently!
Ecker’s has trees producing up to 20 different varieties of apples. The varieties offer differences in not only taste, but also appearance – teaching kids that apples can look very different on the outside. Holmen School District’s Director of Nutrition Services, Mike Gasper, states, “The Farm2School program not only helps local farmers, it also helps the students try different fruits and vegetables. Apples are a popular fruit choice for students, but sometimes aren’t too adventurous with different varieties. Having Ecker’s Apple Farm produce many varieties allow students to try something new.”
The West Salem and Bangor School Districts are celebrating the Great Apple Crunch not only by biting into Ecker’s apples, but by having an entire school lunch menu featuring locally grown foods! This menu will include a roasted root vegetable blend, vegetable soup, and locally raised beef.
Farm2School programs and events, like the Great Apple Crunch, encourage kids to try new foods and provide opportunities for hands-on nutrition education. They also help to support local farmers and economies, by connecting schools and students with those who grow their food. “Events like the Great Apple Crunch showcase local foods, and bring positive attention to school lunch,” says Kerry Johnson, Director of Nutrition Services for Onalaska School District.
Coulee Region Farm2School program is a collaboration between the La Crosse County Health Department and all five school districts in La Crosse County, as well as La Crescent-Hokah School District in Minnesota. Some funding for the program is available through the Wisconsin Partnership Program from the UW School of Medicine and Public Health.