Kids crunch into apples

Published 10:19 pm Thursday, October 6, 2016

Excited chatter and shrieks filled the halls of St. Andrew Preschool as children and parents gathered for Apple Crunch Day.

Inside, students gathered at various stations plotted around the school. The students’ eyes widened with interest and delight as they engaged in apple and pumpkin-themed activities.

At one of the stations, volunteers spread organic peanut butter on thinly sliced apple pieces. At an adjacent table, students pointed to which toppings they would like on their “apple pizzas.” At another station, a volunteer assisted students with a crank machine, which stripped apple skins and removed the cores in order to show the composition of the fruit to the students.

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The activities were a part of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Farm-to-School initiative. The purpose of the program was to expose students to locally grown produce and to promote healthier eating habits.

In 2007, Virginia became one of the first states to establish a farm-to-school taskforce, according to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services website. Two years later, the commonwealth hosted its inaugural program. This year’s program runs from Oct. 3-7.

“We are just encouraging healthy eating habits and hope this carries over to their homes and school lunches,” said Carol Carnegie, one of the directors at the St. Andrew School.

Now in its second year at the school, Carnegie has noticed significant community support in comparison to the previous year.

“The response has been overwhelming,” she said. “There have been church members and parents helping out and donating.”

Marissa Spady, nutrition specialist with The Planning Council, said St. Andrew “went above and beyond with the whole theme.”

Several of the stations coincided with a farm theme — even the school’s directors donned overalls and checkered shirts.

Also, outside on the lawn, there was a station with farm animals the children could interact with.

At approximately 11 a.m., attendees gathered for the Apple Crunch-A-Palooza. Everyone, with an apple in hand, waited for Carnegie’s signal to take a huge chunk out of his or her apple.

The initiative was a collaboration between The Planning Council and the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. This year, Oct. 6 was designated as Apple Crunch Day, in which schools, childcare centers and government agencies across the state each took a bite out of an apple as St. Andrew did.

The objective of the campaign is to show the different statewide locations healthier eating alternatives are encouraged and to promote locally grown produce. To date, more than 23,000 Virginians have registered for the program, according to Spady.

Spady said St. Andrew was among the 12 Hampton Roads-based participants for Apple Crunch Day. A local farmer, Wayne Griffin, who has donated produce to St. Andrew in the past, retrieved more than 1,000 apples from a Virginia orchard, Spady said. These apples were rationed out to all of the area’s participants.

“This is a wonderful way to involve unity,” said Frances Robb, a volunteer and church member at St. Andrew.