MSU Extension teams up with Gavin Orchards to celebrate Michigan apples at two West Michigan schools

Elementary students tried Gingergold, Paula Red and Gala apples to determine which was their favorite.

Over 1,000 students at Coopersville’s South Elementary and Forest Hills’ Meadowbrook Elementary taste tested three varieties of Michigan apples in September 2013. As a community food systems educator with Michigan State University Extension focusing on farm-to-school initiatives, I jumped at the chance to partner with Mike Gavin of Gavin Orchards and offer an educational experience for these schools. Both schools use Chartwells as their school food service provider, which entered into a partnership with Cherry Capital Foods and several farms including Gavin Orchards to provide locally grown fruit for school meals in 144 districts across the state.

Coopersville

Photo: Students at Coopersville’s South Elementary raise their hands to indicate they liked Gingergold apples the best over Paula Red and Gala varieties.

Students from South Elementary in Coopersville taste tested Gingergold, Paula Red and Gala apples from Gavin Orchards based in Coopersville. I talked with the students about the fact that these apples were recently picked from an orchard not far from their school. I also told them how Paula Red apples originated from Sparta, Mich. and were named after the farmer’s wife who discovered the variety. We asked the students to try each of the three kinds of apples and tell us which one they thought was the most crunchy, sweet, or best tasting. At the end of all the lunch periods, Gingergold, a green apple, seemed to win as the school favorite.

Jessica Endres, Food Service Director for Coopersville Schools, said that often when she puts out green apples the students won’t take them because they think they taste sour like Granny Smiths. She asked the students if she puts Gingergold out with a sign to label them if the students would take them and they said they would.

South Elementary Students

Photo: South Elementary students loved Michigan apples from Gavin Orchards in their own home town.

At Meadowbrook Elementary in Forest Hills Public Schools, which is the District’s Chinese emersion school, Gingergold and Gala seemed to be tied for the most liked apple. Paula Red was not served at this school as the taste test activity during a 15-minute school lunch period seemed to go more smoothly with one green and one red apple to sample. These students really seemed to appreciate sliced apples instead of whole and many students requested second and third helpings.

There are many online resources to help educators, food service professionals and parents conduct taste-testing. The Michigan Department of Community Health has a document about taste testing in schools, and Ohio has a guide for conducting taste testing in schools as well.

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