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Berg, Lincoln Elementary students take a bite out of the competition

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Berg Elementary School teachers Bryan Herrin and Karl Leggate took their fifth-grade students outside for the Mountain Plains Crunch Off, Wednesday. (Kayla Henson / The Dickinson Press)

Berg Elementary School's fifth graders gathered together on the lawn, apples in hand, to showcase the school's participation in the Mountain Plains Region Crunch Off. Inside the school, all of their fellow students took a bite of their apples at the same time.

In celebration of Farm to School month, schools and organizations across North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri are competing to see which state has the most people crunching into local apples or produce simultaneously.

Deb Egeland, assistant director, Child Nutrition Programs, organized the event for North Dakota.

"Colorado is in our group, and they have one school district that has 15,000 kids, so to make it fair, they're going to take how many people registered in your state, divided by your population. The state that gets the highest percentage out of that will be the winner," she said.

Egeland said she has 47 groups registered, most of which are schools.

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All of Lincoln Elementary School's students participated, too. Melissa Wolf, para educator, registered the school.

"Almost 395 kids participated ... A lot of them tally marked crunches or how many bites (they took)," she said. "They had to guess how many bites it would take to eat the whole apple. One of the kindergarten classrooms had them painting with apples, had them taste applesauce ... I think they counted the apple seeds."

Both organizers were hoping to get local apples for the competition but weren't able to due to weather and/or time constraints.

"We asked parents to send in apples," Wolf said. "Some of them were from local trees. One of my neighbors has a bunch of apples, so I asked them. They donated a 5-gallon pail full of apples from their apple trees. We had some left from the lunchroom. They kind of came from everywhere, but we did try to get some local produce."

Head cook Cheryl Lehman organized Berg's Crunch.

"I got (our apples) off of ... a program through U.S. Foods for fruits and vegetables that we get at a really reduced price for the school, like some of the freshest they could get," she said.

She said some of the teachers read apple-related books and told the kids facts about apples.

According to a Mountain Plains press release, "This Crunch event encourages healthy eating, supports local agriculture and helps students and community members gain a deeper understanding of the food system."

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The winner of the competition will be announced Nov. 8.

Related Topics: EDUCATION
Kayla Henson is a former Dickinson Press reporter.
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