My state produces plenty of apples, so there’s no reason to buy them from across the country. Getting local apples was a priority for me when I first started working for my school. Buying from local farms means that produce comes to the school fresher and doesn’t need to be trucked long distances. It also supports local farmers over middlemen. I did some web research and found my state’s Farm to School Project, a government resource that matches schools to local farms. They connected me to a farm that was already delivering produce to my town. Comparing the cost of apples between the farm and our main food supplier, I found that the farm’s apples were less expensive or the same price. About 70% of our apples this school year will come from the farm.
Schools typically buy 198-count apples, meaning there are 198 apples in a box. A 198 is two-thirds the size of your average supermarket apple (110-125s) and a great size for a wide range of students. Before schools started buying 198s, the farm had tons of them left over and didn’t know what to do with them.
The farm I work with occasionally runs out of the little apples. I order about three cases a week for my school, so filling the order isn’t a big issue. I’m pretty flexible if 198s aren’t available - I’ll take the next size up. I’ve heard from the farm that some school districts with six or seven schools in their towns are ordering these apples thirty cases at a time. Demand is going up.
As more schools tap into local farms, more will be interested, willing, and able to cater to the needs of schools. I also buy carrot sticks, diced butternut squash, and dill pickles from the farm. Everyone at school loves these items, and they’re great for us to work with in the kitchen.