r By Matt Hargreaves, Utah Farm Bureau Federation
Third-grade students at Canyon Elementary School in Spanish Fork ‘crunched’ into Utah-grown apples in early October while participating in an event to highlight proper nutrition with the Utah County Health Department and Utah Farm Bureau Federation. Similar activities were also being done at Art City and Cherry Creek elementary schools in Springville, with assistance from BYU Community Health students.
As part of the month-long celebration of National Farm-to-School Month, National Apple Month and National School Lunch Week, the two groups partnered with the Utah State Board of Education to put on an ‘Apple Crunch’ activity. Students learned about the conditions needed for growing apples and the steps farmers take to grow the popular food. In addition to learning about the economic and cultural importance of local agriculture, County Health Department employees shared messages of healthy eating and a balanced diet.
“We encouraged students to ‘eat the rainbow’ of healthy food choices during the week, and hope it can become an eating habit that lasts a lifetime,” said Carrie Bennett, Chronic Disease Prevention program manager for the Utah County Health Department.
The activity of a collective crunch of apples encourages healthy eating and supports farm-to-fork and other local purchasing initiatives throughout Utah.
“This was a great way to build a connection with the food these kids are eating with the local farmers that grow it,” said Matt Hargreaves, Vice President of Communications for the Utah Farm Bureau Federation. “The more we’re able to make that connection – helping Utah families learn where their food comes from and the value of local agriculture – the better we’re able to ensure farming and ranching remains an important part of our communities.”
Apples have been an important crop for farmers in Utah County since pioneers brought seeds with them in the mid 19th century. Approximately 70 percent of apples grown in Utah remain in the state, with a large majority of them grown in Utah County. Utah ranks 19th in the nation for apple production, with the most popular varieties being gala, golden delicious, Fuji, Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, Jonathans, and Jonagold.
The United States produces the 2nd most amount of apples in the world – behind China – at more than 240 million bushels. This leads to $4 billion in farm gate sales, or approximately $14 billion in overall economic activity nationally. In Utah, farmers grew approximately 15 million pounds of apples in 2015 (the most recent available statistics) with a value of almost $5 million dollars.
For more information on Farm-to-School month, visit www.farmtoschool.org, or visit www.utahfarmbureau.org to connect with local growers.