If you happened to be near Hyalite Elementary School in Bozeman, MT on Thursday, October 24th at exactly 2:00 p.m., I wouldn’t be surprised if you heard a loud “crunch” coming from the playground. It was the sound of more than 500 students and teachers biting into a locally grown apple to celebrate Montana “Crunch Time.” A first-time event, Montana Crunch Time is a celebration of Farm to School Month, National Food Day, healthy eating, and Montana agriculture. Communities all across Montana participated in the “crunch,” which was sponsored by the Office of Public Instruction, Montana Team Nutrition, Eat Right Montana, the National Farm to School Network, and the Farm to Cafeteria Network, a program of the National Center for Appropriate Technology.

I am proud to say that students from all 11 Bozeman School District schools participated in the event. Picture 4,274 students crunching into apples simultaneously! And these weren’t just any apples. Sherri Pearson, Assistant Food Service Manager for the Bozeman School District, and I worked together to order 918 lbs of spray-free apples from Blue Water Orchards in Fromberg, MT. These apples were as fresh as you can get — picked a couple days earlier and delivered directly to the Bozeman schools from under 150 miles away.

Student reactions serve as a testimony to the deliciousness of these Montana-grown apples. At Meadowlark Elementary School, one student remarked: “WOW! This apple is from Montana? COOL!!” A student from Chief Joseph Middle School shared with his music teacher that it was the best day ever in orchestra because they got to play fun music and then eat a delicious apple. At Hyalite Elementary, many students told me that it was the most delicious apple they had ever eaten. And when we wrapped up the celebration by composting our apple cores, there was barely anything leftover to compost!

During the Hyalite Elementary all-school assembly, I stimulated minds with an apple trivia game and roused spirits by leading a Crunch Time cheer (dressed up in an apple costume generously loaned by MT Team Nutrition). If you closed your eyes during the cheer, you could have been at any sports game or rally with the energy in the air. But after the count down, right at 2:00 pm, there were no voices, only the sound of just over 500 students and teachers crunching into apples in perfect unison. I attached a video so that you can share the experience.

Several teachers expanded on the learning opportunity afforded by Montana Crunch Time. One made applesauce with her students. Another led an apple-eating reflection to introduce students to sensory writing. Many schools made P.A. announcements that celebrated healthy eating and recounted the history of apples in Montana.

In our globalized food system, it is easy to be in the dark about where our food actually comes from. Although a small effort, Montana Crunch Time is one more step towards informing our Montana youth about the importance of eating fresh and locally grown food while supporting our Montana farmers. Hope to see you next year for our second annual Montana Crunch Time!

Written by Service Member Erin Jackson, Bozeman