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2021’s Virtual Great Big Crunch was a Great Big Hit

While the Great Big Crunch sure looked different this year, the first-ever virtual Canada-wide Great Big Crunch made some big noise for healthy school food with the highest participation ever — 56,414 registered crunchers!

The Great Big Crunch, an initiative of FoodShare Toronto, has heard a whopping 1,246,668 crunches since it first began in 2008.

This year’s virtual Great Big Crunch encouraged participation throughout the whole month of March, with an online Canada-wide event on March 11th.

Friends and supporters across the country—including teachers, classes, school administrators, parents and politicians—joined in to take a bite out of an apple and make noise for healthy school food and a National School Food Program for Canada.

We were thrilled to see (and hear) so many people organize and join crunches this year, especially the amount of classrooms that were able to participate! The majority of our registered participants came from School Boards. We’d like to thank chef and author Joshna Maharaj, who led the virtual crunch on March 11th (with a maxed out number of crunchers on the call!), as well as all who joined the call and brought their enthusiasm for healthy school food:

  • Brent Mansfield and his LunchLab students from Lord Roberts Elementary in Vancouver joined in, with students showing off some of their favourite ways to prepare apples for their locally-sourced salad bar🍎

  • Marc Schutzbank, Chair of the Vancouver Food Policy Council, read the City of Vancouver’s Great Big Crunch for Healthy School Food Proclamation🍎

  • The Mayors of both Battleford and North Battleford in Saskatchewan joined the call to share their support for good food in schools, as well as their own proclamation making March 11th Great Big Crunch Healthy School Food Day! You can read more from the Battlefords here🍎

  • And we were delighted to have apple farmer Kevin Klippenstein from BC’s Klippers Organics Farm with us, sharing his passion for growing healthy food for students and communities🍎

If you weren’t able to join us on the Canada-wide call, you can watch a recording here.

Since then, we’ve been connecting with some participating schools to hear how they celebrated:

Vermilion Bay’s Lillian Berg Public School, a small school in Northern Ontario, is a big supporter of food education and experiential learning, and they have really demonstrated how the Great Big Crunch can mobilize several food literacy activities throughout a school, even beyond the Crunch date! First, their classes celebrated the Great Big Crunch on March 12th, with students receiving apples and pears for numerous crafts and activities. For instance, some classes used apples to discuss life cycles and parts of a fruit, and some students read about the history of apples in Canada, and about related jobs along the food supply chain. Some classes also planted apple seeds and made apple sauce! Some grades even made connections to topics around food miles, local food and food security. And, they plan to continue building off these activities and topics into the spring with more hands-on learning — their primary grades are going to plant a variety of seeds in their school garden beds, which will be sold to a community organization and taken home in May as Mother’s/Caregiver’s Day gifts.

The 2021 Great Big Crunch received some news coverage too, like this article from CTV London with our partners from the Middlesex-London Food Policy Council (MLFPC) and Growing Chefs! Ontario.

In the article, the Chair of the MLFPC, Benjamin D. Hill, shares:

"Canada is the only G7 country that doesn’t have a national school food program. This is really what we are hoping to see, the government of 2019 committed itself to the importance of a school food program, so we are hoping to get them to follow through with that commitment."

Hear more from Benjamin Hill in this wonderful video from the MLFPC and Growing Chefs, which features city officials, local politicians and partner organizations participating in the Great Big Crunch while stressing the importance of healthy school food:

Councillor Michael van Holst shares in the video, “perhaps the most important part of classroom learning is the ability to concentrate, and that is very hard to do when you’re distracted by hunger or lacking the nutrients to have the brain functioning optimally. Well, this can be remedied by making food available to students.”

The video also highlights how school food programs can support the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Thank you once again to all who helped us turn up the noise for healthy school food in Canada! We are inspired by you all.

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