Pearl Lean Elementary School students Tazmeen Aftab, Aamreen Khan and Kaylee Norman participate in the Great Lakes Great Apple Crunch experience Oct. 10.

Pearl Lean Elementary School students Tazmeen Aftab, Aamreen Khan and Kaylee Norman participate in the Great Lakes Great Apple Crunch experience Oct. 10.

Photo provided by Gleaners Community Food Bank

Local schools participate in Great Lakes Great Apple Crunch

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published October 11, 2019


WARREN — “Crunch.”

That was the sound that echoed in the cafeterias of five Warren Consolidated Schools buildings Oct. 10 as students participated in the Great Lakes Great Apple Crunch.

The event was held during lunch hour at Green Acres, Pearl Lean and Siersma elementary schools; Beer Middle School; and Warren Mott High School.

The Great Lakes Great Apple Crunch encourages healthy eating and supports farm-to-school and other local food-purchasing initiatives throughout the region, which includes schools in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin.

“It’s to increase access of food to students in the community and to increase healthy eating education,” WCS Nutrition Services Director Caroline Dylewski said.

The WCS Nutrition Services Department teamed with Westview Orchards in Washington Township to offer the program. Westview Orchards provided 3,000 apples for the schools. WCS made a direct purchase for the fruit, and according to Dylewski, “They were generous with the cost.”

Students had a choice of four types of apples: Empire, McIntosh, Jonathan and Gala. Beer students had one more option of the Jonagold apple, while Mott students could also pick an apple crisp. The apple selections were set up like a mini farmers market inside the school cafeterias.  

“It’s a way for us to celebrate local farming and to help promote healthy foods from our own community,” Dylewski said.

Dylewski added that “nutrition plays a huge role” in a student’s academics.

“A hungry child isn’t going to pay attention to a lesson. They’re tired. They’re distracted,” she said. “We’re nourishing their bellies. We’re nourishing their minds.”

Dylewski said the WCS Nutrition Services Department has seven to eight fresh fruit and vegetable choices at the schools on a daily basis for students. Much of the produce comes from Eastern Market in Detroit.

“I want them to have choices so they’re more inclined to eat,” Dylewski  said.

WCS is part of the Best Food Forward initiative, which includes a number of nonprofit organizations, local health systems and the Michigan Department of Education. Gleaners Community Food Bank participated in the Great Lakes Great Apple Crunch because of its collaboration with the Best Food Forward initiative.

According to the Gleaners website,, Best Food Forward is a school-based program designed to bring households in a school district to full food security in three ways: better spending of existing resources, taking advantage of state programs for kids and families, and adding additional food, if needed, so that households are fully food secure. Best Food Forward is designed to improve the way kids learn, engage and eat at school.

“The participation in the Great Lakes Great Apple Crunch is inspired and led by Warren Consolidated Schools. Every student gets to pick their own apples. Students will learn the characteristics of the apples,” Gleaners Director of Programs Kat Benford said. “Part of the Best Food Forward initiative is to increase the availability of healthy foods to the students.”

Gleaners, based in Detroit, operates five distribution centers in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Livingston and Monroe counties, and provides food to soup kitchens, food pantries, shelters and other agencies throughout southeast Michigan.

According to its website, Gleaners distributes an average of 96,000 meals each day, including providing nourishing food and nutrition education to 171,000 children a year. Every dollar donated provides three meals, and 93 cents of every donated dollar goes to food and food programs.