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Local apple farmers help bring national Apples4Ed grant to elementary school

Kent City — Connecting with local growers, making healthy snacks and growing vegetables are all part of new, highly-engaging nutrition education on the way for elementary students, thanks to a grant from local farmers and their apple farming association, U.S. Apple. Kent City Elementary was one of just five in the nation chosen to receive the $5,000 Apples4Ed award. 

To celebrate the grant, students gathered on the playground with area apple farmers and Michigan’s Apple Queen, Sylvia Freeland, Kent City High School junior, to enjoy an apple snack. The students also previewed the nutrition lessons coming their way during the 2023-24 school year from STEM teacher Nicole Andreas: 

“We’re going to do healthy eating lessons … and even do cooking lessons with you,” she said to students, who erupted in cheers when she mentioned the opportunity to learn how to cook.  

Kent City Elementary students gathered for a special celebration to thank local farmers for their Apples4Ed grant

STEM Teacher Billie Freeland said that making the connection between nutritious foods and local farms is part of KCE’s plan to encourage healthy eating. 

“Even though they live in the community, (students) don’t always know what grows here. And they don’t get the chance to meet the growers and we really wanted to make that connection today,” she said. 

Freeland said that the school has not had nutrition education since a partnership with the YMCA ended several years ago. With funding from the Apples4Ed grant, she and Andreas will be able to encourage healthy eating in a community that doesn’t have ready access to fresh food. 

“We don’t have a grocery store in town, so there’s no real source of fresh fruits and vegetables,” she said. 

Part of the grant funds will be used to purchase seeds and plants for KCE’s new greenhouse, slated to be completed during the summer of 2023. When the seeds turn into fresh fruits and veggies, KCE students will learn how to turn them into healthy snacks so that next time they go to the grocery store, they’ll know what to buy. 

And when they buy an apple with the “local” label, they may just remember the apple farmer they met at school. 

“The growers really support the community, so we really appreciate that,” said Freeland. 

STEM teachers Billie Freeland and Nicole Andreas applied for the Apples4Ed grant to connect students to the source of their food

Read more from Kent City:
Intentional spaces inspire and connect students
‘Bookworms’ creates elementary word lovers

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Allison Poosawtsee
Allison Poosawtsee
Allison Poosawtsee is a reporter covering Rockford Public Schools and Kent City Community Schools. She has spent 15+ years working and writing in the education context, first for her alma mater, Calvin University, and then for various businesses and nonprofit organizations in the Grand Rapids area. As a student journalist, she served as editor-in-chief of Calvin’s student newspaper where she garnered several Michigan Collegiate Press Association awards for her work. Allison is a proud parent of two Grand Rapids Public Schools scholars and a passionate advocate for the value of public education.


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