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Apple Orchard to School Cafeteria: A photographic journey from farm to school in Michigan

According to the Michigan Apple Committee (MAC), Michigan is home to over 775 apple orchards, producing over 1 billion pounds of apples each year. That's a lot of apples! And thanks to the Michigan Department of Education's 10 Cents a Meal program, many of those apples are making their way from farm to school cafeterias across the state.

hand holding an apple

The Michigan 10 Cents a Meal Program is a state-funded program that matches what schools spend on Michigan-grown fruits, vegetables, and dry beans with grants of up to 10 cents per meal. The program is designed to improve the nutrition of Michigan children and support the state's agricultural economy. For the past three months, I've had the pleasure of photographing the journey of Michigan apples from farm to school cafeteria as part of the 10 Cents a Meal program.

mother and daughter picking apples
family eating apples in orchard
U pick apple sign in an orchard

The first step in the apple journey is, of course, picking the apples. In Michigan, apple picking is a fun fall activity for families and a full-time, labor-intensive job for Michigan farmers.

food hub washing apples
food hub slicing apples
food hub slicing apples
sliced apples

After the apples are shipped from the farm, many food hubs will wash and process the apples before distrubuting them to the schools for efficiency. The above picture shows Flint Fresh Food Hub in Flint, Michigan processing and washing apples before delivering them to schools.

apples being washed in cafeteria

Some districts, such as Comstock Public Schools, meticulously wash the apples by hand to get them ready for students to enjoy.

hand reaching for an apple
girl in school cafeteria line
boy eating an apple in cafeteria
apples in school cafeteria

So, when students go through the cafeteria line like the one above at Comstock Public Schools, they have a fresh and nutritious option to go with their meals.

student drawing an apple
teacher reading a book about apples
apple in a phonics chart in classroom
girl sorting apples in math activity
teacher using apple card to teach phonics

In the photo above, first grade teacher, Mrs. Appel (I didn't make that up!), shows that the story of the apple doesn't stop at the cafeteria table. It transcends into the classroom, where the apple has become a symbol of education, knowledge, and growth.

mural with farmers in the city of Comstock Michigan

And perhaps the apples are also a symbol of the importance of community. It takes a village to grow, process, and prepare apples for students, just as it takes a village to educate the next generation of students.

The Michigan 10 Cents a Meal program is a shining example of community collaboration. It brings together farmers, food hubs, schools, and families to ensure that all Michigan students have access to healthy, fresh food.

Ready to tell your story? Let's chat.


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