At 2:28 p.m. on Tuesday, physical education teacher Brandon Powell’s voice came over the loudspeaker at Stearns Elementary.
Powell shared with students that soon they’d be joining nine Klamath County School District schools, in addition to two city schools, in taking a bite out of Oregon-grown apples.
By 2:30 p.m., it was crunch time.
More than 3,000 elementary and middle school students in Klamath Falls simultaneously got a taste of apples grown by Oregon farmers. The event, known as the second annual “Crunch at Once,” operates through a partnership to Farm-to-School month.
Approximately 2,160 apples were delivered to county schools: Bonanza, Chiloquin, Malin, Merrill, Henley, and Shasta Elementarys, as well as Chiloquin Junior/Senior High. Klamath County School District’s Farm-to-School Program, a program implemented this year in coordination with Klamath Basin Research and Extension Service, operates under funding from a two-year federal grant, according to Jordan Rainwater, coordinator for the Farm-to-School Program.
Patty Case, associate professor of Family and Community Health at the extension service, was at Conger Elementary, where students crunched on apples donated by Klamath-Lake Counties Food Bank. Approximately 800 apples were donated by the food bank for city schools participants, including Pelican Elementary.
The event is a fun way to educate students on the importance of knowing where food comes from, according to Case.
“When kids know where food comes from, they kind of have that connection, they’re just more likely to eat it,” Case said.
“Here we are doing this silly activity — crunching an apple — but they love it,” Case added. “You can see it in their faces, they’re just excited. They’re part of something bigger than themselves.”
Case also said the event is a way to appreciate the farmers who provide food for communities around the state.
“We partner with local schools and we try to promote Oregon-grown, local-grown products,” Case said.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture grant that funds the county schools’ Farm-to-School program also funds a Farm-to-School coordinator’s position.
Rainwater is in her first year coordinating fresh and local products for county schools. She works closely with Case on the Farm-to-School program.
“Part of my job is to expand access by discovering new distributors and new vendors,” Rainwater said.
Rainwater said she found a distributor that worked with county schools to provide Hood River Gala apples for the tasting.
“I was able to find a new distributor based out of Eugene that had organic apples,” Rainwater said.
The company distributes to Bend and a La Pine driver drove the apples to Gilchrist. An individual driving a county schools truck picked them up and delivered them to Klamath Falls.
“They really worked with us to get the product here, even though we don’t have a distribution route here currently with them,” Rainwater said.