Olympian and Minnesotan Carrie Tollefson bit into an apple along with seventh graders Ava Hamsund (left) and Olivia Becker as part of the Great Apple Crunch.
by LAURA HAYES
It was a crunch heard ‘round the world.
With a count of three, Winona Middle School seventh graders bit into an apple at noon last Thursday as other students across the Midwest. The event was part of the fourth annual Great Lakes Great Apple Crunch, designed to highlight efforts to serve locally-grown produce in schools.
Local orchards have been providing apples in preparation for the crunch. “We wanted to be one of those schools because we really believe in supporting our local farmers,” Winona Area Public Schools (WAPS) Nutrition Director Jennifer Walters explained.
The event is part of the National Farm to School month. Over the past several years, WAPS’ nutrition department has received numerous grants — for example, in 2015, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture awarded the department a grant to purchase a frozen yogurt machine featuring dairy products from local farmers. Recently, Walters started “Minnesota Thursdays” when locally-grown and produced food is served for students.
The crunch was led by former United State Olympian and runner Carrie Tollefson, who was born in Dawson, Minn. Tollefson competed in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, and she made it to the semifinals in the 1500-meter race. In Minnesota alone, students participated in the crunch. “If I can support local, Minnesota-grown foods — I’m a team member all the way,” Tollefson said. She recommended buying locally-grown food or going to farmers markets to purchase produce and other local products. “When I needed the support, Minnesota supported me and I hope I can do that in return,” she said.
Tollefson is currently the spokesperson for the Minnesota Grown Program. As an athlete, Tollefson said she loves to work out and eat. “My reward after working out is to put fuel back in my body,” she said.
What’s her advice for young students to be healthy? “Make sure to move your bodies and think about what you’re eating,” Tollefson said. “When we can think about putting what’s grown from Minnesota soil in our bodies, it’s an easy thing to know that that’s good for you.”