Starting this fall, public school students in 114 districts will enjoy Michigan-grown fruit, thanks to a partnership with growers, Cherry Capital Foods, and Chartwells School Dining Services.

“This may be the largest farm-to-school project to date in the country,” says Kelly Lively, special projects and school liaison for Cherry Capital Foods.

The Traverse City food distributor will gather, store and coordinate the transportation of apples to districts statewide, including parts of the Upper Peninsula. Growers such as Friske Orchards, a Great Lakes Energy Co-op member in Antrim County, Gavin Orchards in Coopersville, and dozens of other farms, will provide many varieties throughout the year, in different sizes specialized to the ages of students in each school. Educators at MSU Extension and other regional experts expect a bumper crop this year.

“Through our partnership, we’re able to provide fresh, local foods that are at the height of their nutritional value to Michigan students,” explains Brain Casey, Chartwells’ regional vice president. Because supplies allow it this year, peaches and possibly pears will also be available to schools.

Cherry Capital is also hosting a statewide event called “Michigan’s Apple Crunch!” that encourages people of all ages to bite into an apple on Oct. 24. It’s part of Food Day, a national promotion of healthy, affordable and sustainable food. For more information, visit or call Kelly Lively at 231-943-5010.

– Kendra Wills