By Kate Frazer
For many of us living in Tompkins County, fall feels incomplete without a candied apple from the Apple Harvest Festival, cider donuts from Littletree Orchards, or a cider tasting at the Finger Lakes Cider House. But there’s something magical about apples in their purest form—plucked right from the tree and savored in juicy, crunchy bites.
Rose Hanson has always been drawn to the simple appeal of the apple and is sharing that enthusiasm with her community by coordinating a “Big Apple Crunch” for the Trumansburg Central School District (TCSD) on October 19.
The Big Apple Crunch was created in 2012 by nonprofit GrowNYC in partnership with the NYC Office of Food Policy to celebrate Food Day in New York City. Approximately 400,000 New Yorkers bit into a locally grown New York State apple that first year. Since then, the FarmOn! Foundation has grown The Big Apple Crunch into a statewide event.
It’s an idea as simple and sweet as the apple itself. According to the Big Apple Crunch website, at 2 pm on October 19, New Yorkers in schools, college campuses, hospitals, nursing homes, prisons, farmers’ markets, corporate cafeterias, and retail establishments will take a bite out of a New York apple to raise awareness about the importance of supporting local New York farmers, creating better access to fresh fruits and vegetables, and making it more affordable to eat fresh, local food.
In 2015, the event shattered a world record with 1,000,000 New Yorkers participating. Last year, that number doubled. This year, about 1,000 Trumansburg school kids will be among the apple crunchers.
A former restauranteur, Hanson’s apple obsession began when she was studying agricultural economics as an undergraduate at Cornell and made daily visits to an apple vending machine in the basement of the Plant Science building. “I survived on those apples—sometimes with a bagel, always with a giant cup of coffee,” she said.
Today, Hanson is a parent-volunteer, TCSD Foundation board member, and member of the food service staff with an interest in incorporating more local foods into cafeteria menus. She came across the Big Apple Crunch while researching ideas on a New York State farm-to-school web page.
“I thought it would be a fun way to make kids more aware of the abundance of apples in our own backyard,” said Hanson. “There are so many apple-related businesses right here in Trumansburg—from Black Diamond Farm to Kingtown Orchards to Hoffmire Farms. We’re lucky to have so much local access to this amazing food.”
She also sees Big Apple Crunch as the perfect launching point for a variety of classroom lessons and activities, many of which have a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) connection. “My hope is that teachers can build simple lessons around apples—from looking at pollination or nutrition, to thinking about the apple’s role in local economies,” she said.
In 2013, prompted by her sons’ complaints about the quality of apples available in the cafeteria, Hanson worked with the middle school parent teacher organization to distribute local apples every week in the month of October, a program she continued for four years. The Big Apple Crunch builds on that effort, offering each Trumansburg elementary, middle and high school student a New York State apple to enjoy and the chance to be part of a statewide celebration of our local bounty.
Cornell is donating 500 SnapDragon and RubyFrost apples—two varieties developed in partnership with the New York Apple Growers (NYAG)—for the event. The day’s festivities will also include a talk by Cornell Horticulture Professor Marvin Pritts and an heirloom apple tasting led by Jackie Merwin of Black Diamond Farm.
You can join the fun by doing your own Big Apple Crunch: Simply grab a New York Apple and take a bite at 2 pm on October 19. Better yet, make a video announcing the challenge for a chance to win $1,000 for a Victory Garden at a school of your choosing. See the “How to Crunch” guide for more.