“An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” they used to tell kids. While not strictly true, of course, the thought behind the saying is likely that good nutrition helps to keep people healthy, and apples can be part of a nutritious diet.
Students attending an in-school student nutrition program in Haldimand and Norfolk have the option of adding apples (and other healthy foods) to their diets thanks to the Farm to School program, an initiative which procures local produce for student nutrition programs. The Farm to School program works under the banner of the Child Nutrition Network (CNN).
The Student Nutrition Program is a provincial initiative, partially funded by the Ontario Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, and administered regionally by Haldimand-Norfolk R.E.A.C.H (Resource Education and Counselling Help), a non-profit entity based in Townsend that also oversees CNN along with several other programs.
The Ministry has directed that student food programs must include a fruit or vegetable with every meal or snack . Apples are a huge part of this, and were so especially during Covid, as they required no special preparation, as other forms of produce did. Norfolk has lots of produce growers, with a wide variety of products, but apples – fresh and locally produced are the most popular.
So far this year, a daily average of 5,060 Norfolk students have participated in the Farm to School program, consuming 315,000 meals and snacks consisting of locally sourced produce items. Since 2017, 425,000 apples, 11,500 cucumbers, 5,000 cups of frozen berries, 4,400 peppers and 6,500 carrots, all locally produced, have been consumed in the Farm 2 School program.
The program is paid for in part by the government and in part by individual donors. Schools also help with the cost by fund raising. CNN purchases the apples from Norfolk Fruit Growers which is based in Simcoe. Twenty-six schools in Norfolk and 20 in Haldimand take part. Students who choose to participate receive produce, usually apples, from two to five days a week. Staff who run the program are volunteers.
It’s a win-win for the participants. Kids get fresh apples frequently, and Norfolk Fruit Growers have introduced future consumers to the goodness of apples.