By GRETCHEN MURRAY Special to the Record-Eagle
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Apples are delicious and they’re known to pack a nutritional wallop, but it was all about a fruity crunch factor for area students who recently participated in Michigan’s first Apple Crunch Day.
Kelly Lively, special projects and school liaison for Cherry Capital Foods in Traverse City, coordinated local Apple Crunch Day events at numerous northern Michigan schools. She estimated that about 70,000 students across the state took a bite out of a fresh Michigan-grown apple on Oct. 24.
The activity coincided with Food Day 2013, a nationwide movement that encourages Americans to choose healthier, affordable and sustainable foods.
“Cherry Capital Foods is a food distribution company that works exclusively with Michigan farmers,” Lively said. “We deal with Chartwells, a school dining service company, to provide close to 200 school districts in Michigan with apples from our local farms.
“In northern Michigan we provide all the produce to 25 school districts.”
Lively said Apple Crunch Day is a growing national event.
“This wasn’t intended to be a ‘flash mob’ kind of event,” Lively said. “Schools could decide how and when they wanted to participate, but we encouraged students and staff to consider anything from dressing in the colors of apples that day to just setting out bowls of apples in the cafeterias.”
Janis Groomes, food service director of Northport Public School, said the school opted for one big, simultaneous crunch during a morning school assembly, when Ginger Gold and Gala apples from nearby Bardenhagen Farms were distributed to students.
“We’re a K-12 school, and we got our entire 178-member student body together for the event,” Groomes said. “October is National Farm-to-School month, and our students have been learning that 99 percent of the food we serve in the school comes from local farmers.”
“Grand Traverse Area Catholic Schools are already ahead of the curve in connecting diet to learning,” Lively said.
GTACS participated even though the main cafeteria at St. Francis High School was closed for hot lunches on Thursday.
“I signed up even though students had to bring brown bag lunches that day due to our commercial kitchen being used for preparations for the weekend’s Gladhander,” said Dining Service Administrator Karen Spencer. “But we delivered apples to our younger students as mid-morning snacks and made them available to students who ate their lunches brought from home.”
Spencer said GTACS’ Life Balance Initiative emphasizes the idea that healthy food and exercise go hand-in-hand with learning.
“GTACS is a private school, and the cost of our school lunch program is included in the tuition for kindergarten through second grade students,” Spencer said. “This is a concept Superintendent Mike Buell and Chef Mike Bauer have encouraged as a way to introduce healthier eating to younger children and help them realize there is a great variety of food out there that should be tried.”