The HardCORE Challenge!

Welcome to the
HardCORE CT Apple & Pear Challenge Toolbox

One way to celebrate CT Grown for CT Kids Week this October 7-11, 2019 is by participating in the 3rd annual HardCORE Apple and Pear Challenge! (Yes - this year, we’re encouraging you to try local pears, too!)
To take part, all you need is a #CTGrown apple or pear and eat it down to its core!

Some fun ways of celebrating include…

Try at least 2 different types of #CTGrown apples or pears - or one of each!

Take a trip to a local orchard!

Any other apple or pear activity that connects students to local food - get creative!

By participating, you are promoting some of the most readily available local products in the fall in a fun and simple way that can easily engage the entire school community. Oh, and all of October is National Farm to School Month, in case you want to celebrate all month long!

Poke around our site to see access our fun resources and free downloadable graphics to help you celebrate.

Post a photo and tag #CTgrownforCTkids so we know what you’re up to!
Crunch on, CT!

If you have any questions, please contact us!


We’ve collected a number of recipe ideas for incorporating local apples into your meals. These recipes have been developed, tested, and approved by school food service professionals and by kids!

Butternut Squash and Apple Casserole

Couple apples with another quintessential taste of fall with this recipe. This is a recipe contest winner from Pittsfield Public Schools in Massachusetts, and is sure to brighten up any lunch line!

Vermont Maple Apple French Toast Bake

A warm breakfast treat to serve on a crisp fall morning! This is a great recipe to liven up any leftover bread.

Gingered Cabbage Salad

Spice up a cabbage salad with a touch of fresh ginger and a hint of sweetness from crisp apples!

Peanut Butter Apple Wraps

A simple, familiar pairing sure to satisfy the taste buds!

Wheat Berry & Apple Salad

A great way to introduce wheat berries with a familiar fruit!

Waldorf Fruit Salad

A classic take on fresh apples!
Below are recipes given to our team to share with the world, straight from Connecticut school cafeterias! They are formatted for food service, and have all been tested for student approval: 

Apple Butternut Squash Casserole 

Apple and Grapes Waldorf Salad

Apple Crisp

Apple Cucumber Salad


Harvest Apple Muffin

Harvest Delight 

Baked Apples, Wedges
Baked Apples, Whole
Baked Apples, Slices 

Recommended Reading:

  • One Green Apple
    • Grade Levels: Preschool - 3
    • Farah feels alone, since it's hard being the new kid in school, especially when you’re from another country and don’t know the language. On a field trip to an apple orchard, Farah discovers there are lots of things that remind her of home. As she helps the class make apple cider, Farah connects with the other students and begins to feel that she belongs.
  • The Apple Orchard Riddle
    • Grade Levels: K - 3 
    • Students learn a lot about apples and apple orchards—including how apples are harvested, how cider is made, and what the different varieties of apples are—while trying to solve a riddle.
  • Apple Farmer Annie
    • Grade Levels: Preschool - 2
    • Annie is a very busy apple farmer. She bakes yummy treats with the apples she picks and saves her best apples to sell at the market. Follow Annie through her apple-filled day of picking, counting, sorting, baking, and selling.
  •  The Seasons of Arnold's Apple Tree
    • Grade Levels: Preschool - 3
    • This book about nature and the changing seasons focuses on a young boy and a very special apple tree.
  •  Apples  by Gail Gibbons
    • Grade Levels: Kindergarten - 3
    • Explains how apples were brought to America, how they grow, their traditional uses and cultural significance, and some of the varieties grown.
  • Apples by Jacqueline Farmer
    • Grade Levels: 1 - 3
    • Describes the cultivation and uses of apples.
  • Apples and Pumpkins by Anne Rockwell
    • Grade Levels: Preschool - 3
    • In preparation for Halloween night, a family visits Mr. Comstock's farm to pick apples and pumpkins.
  • Apples to Applesauce by Inez Snyder
    • Grade Levels: 1 - 2 
    • In this fun and informative series, curious readers will discover how some of their favorite products are made from start to finish.
  • The Apple Pie Tree by Zoe Hall
    • Grade Levels: Preschool - 3
    • Two sisters rejoice as the colorful blossoms on their tree develop into big, red, and ready-to-pick apples. This concept book about how things grow includes an easy recipe for apple pie.
  • How to Make an Apple Pie and see the World by Marjorie Priceman
    • Grade Levels: Preschool - 2
    • An apple pie is easy to make...if the market is open. But if the market is closed, the world becomes your grocery store. This deliciously silly recipe for apple pie takes readers around the globe to gather ingredients.
  • The Apple Pie that Papa Baked by Lauren Thompson
    • Grade Levels: Kindergarten - 3
    • Story about baking a delicious apple pie.
  • Are We Pears Yet?  by Miranda Paul
    • Grade Levels: Kindergarten - 3
    • Written entirely in dialogue and staged as a play, this is a clever informational picture book that looks at growth cycles and fruit trees in a whole new way.
  • Red Apple, Green Pear by Rebecca Bondor
    • Grade Levels: Preschool and up
    • Perfect for toddlers, if you're working in Farm to Early Care! Teach colors with images of delicious fruit.
  • Orange Pear Apple Bear by Emily Gravett
    • Grade Levels: Preschool and up
    • With spare text and sweet illustrations, this book contains only five words: apple, pear, orange, bear--and there. Emily Gravett creates clever variations on this theme by rearranging the words--on one spread, a brown bear juggles an orange, apple, and pear; on another spread, there is an orange-colored apple and a pear-shaped bear. Simple and compelling! Try eating a local pear once you're finished reading.
  • Too Many Pears! by Jackie French
    • Grade Levels: Preschool - 2
    • Pamela the cow loves pears and will do anything to get them. But will Amy find a way to keep the pears safe? Watch Pamela perform all kids of antics to get to her favorite fruit.


Check out these apple themed lessons for grades K-5 that can be adapted, brought to you by FoodCorps!

Our friends on the CT Apple Marketing Board have a great teacher resource page filled with all things apples. There are a variety of activity sheets, flashcards, and a list of over 50 reading selections to enhance your HardCORE CT Apple events!

Check it out here!


Community engagement is a key piece of celebrating farm to school! We want more families to know about and take advantage of the important service you provide, and we want community partners to know about the great work you are doing.


LETTER: We’ve drafted a template welcome letter (find it in PDF format here, or editable Word.doc format here) to send out to your community partners. Feel free to edit this to suit your individual program and needs.

FLYER: We've made this flyer for you to promote the challenge within your community, via email, through a listserv, post on social media.



Here are some ways you could use the letter or flyer:

  • Send to PTO to solicit help out with a Local Tray Day event (community package provided to them)
  • Ask your local library to put together an apple & pear book table (some specific books are recommended in the activity section!) in honor of CT Grown for CT Kids Week & National Farm to School Month!
  • Ask your local grocery store to feature local apples in the produce section, and provide them with a small kit including a poster to hang, a flyer to get them excited, and a welcome letter with more details.

Social Media 

SAMPLE TEXT: Here we’ve put together some sample text to help you get the word out about your HardCORE activities during the CT Apple and Pear Challenge!

  • School newsletter sample text:
    • “____ [school district] has taken on the HardCORE CT Apple & Pear Challenge to celebrate Farm to School month and CT Grown for CT Kids Week this October 7-11! We’ll be serving local _____ and handing out prizes during the month of October. We encourage you to visit a local orchard and try a new variety of apples together this fall!”
  • Facebook sample text:
    • General Post: We’re participating in the HardCORE CT Apple & Pear Challenge! We’re serving up #local, #fresh, #CTgrown apples in our school meals in October to celebrate #CTgrownforCTkids week this October 7-11, 2019. We sure do #heartCTgrown !
    • Promoting a specific HardCORE apple event: Join us in being HardCORE by eating some local _____ this week at ___ site on ___day! We’ll be doing _________(activity) as a part of the CT Apple & Pear Challenge. Fall is here and we’re happy to be supporting #CTfarmers, and learning #healthyhabits because we #heartCTgrown!
  • Twitter
    • Hey @CTFarmToSchool, we’re celebrating #CTgrownforCTkids at __ site in ___today serving #local, #fresh ____ (apples or pears) from ___ farm!
  • Instagram
    • Create your own caption, using these great hashtags!: #CTgrownforCTkids #heartCTgrown , #HardCORE, #ctlocal, #eatlocal, #eatfresh, #crunch, #FarmToSchool, #CTGrown


Community Newsletter


The Community Newsletter is a colorful double-sided editable resource that includes apple nutritional facts, a take-home recipe and activity. You can hand these out at your apple event, or send them out ahead of time to let folks know about upcoming events. The main section on the front page is ideal for including information about how you’re celebrating local apples this fall! Download Apple Newsletter



Have questions? Email 

Promotional Materials


Ideas for use:

  • Hang somewhere at your site when local apples are on the menu
  • Hang on the front of a table where you’ve set up apple taste tests or activities
  • Take a picture of a student eating an apple in front of it and post it on social media using the hashtag #CTgrownforCTkids (Hint: don’t forget to mention the farm that grew your apples!)
  • Download 2019 Poster


Ideas for use: 


Ideas for use:

  • Edit the front page to let everyone know when you’ll be serving local
  • Send home with students
  • Hand out to the PTO
  • Share with administrators
  • Leave a stack at the local library (and use the Apple Letter to let them know what the project is all about!) 
  • Download Newsletter


Ideas for Use:

  • Print your own and hand out as prizes for completing the CT Apple & Pear Challenge
  • Include in bagged lunches
  • Leave a stack at the local library (and use the community engagement letter to let them know what the project is all about)!
  • Give them out after reading an apple or pear themed book during CT Grown for CT Kids Week
  • Download the bookmark


Ideas for use:

  • Print your own temporary tattoos and hand out as prizes for completing the CT Apple Challenge (we recommend 2"x2")
  • Use as rewards for participating in other apple-themed activities (see activity section below)
  • Take pictures of kids eating local apples with their apple tattoos and post to social media (if you have photo permissions of course) and use the hashtag: #CTgrownforCTkids
  • Download Tattoos

Serving Up Local! But...How?

Finding local produce and making sure you follow USDA procurement guidelines isn’t an easy task, so we’ve pulled together some tools to make it easier for you to find local apples this fall.

Understanding Local Procurement

  • Using the Micro Purchase Threshold: This tool explains how to use the micro purchase threshold for procuring local  produce. It also provides a worksheet to help you keep accurate records for your review.
  • Local Foods Procurement Decision Tree: Not sure whether you should use a micro-purchase, informal, or formal bid process to purchase your local produce this fall? Check this out. 
  • Procurement Tutorials: Mary Ann Lopez, a former FSD, made these short introductory videos to the ins and outs of buying local for your school cafeteria. Check them out!
  • Check out our Tools and Resources page, where you will find these documents and more!

Tools to Connect Directly to Farms

  • CT Farm to School Farm Directory: Are you a school nutrition professional looking to partner with a local farm? See what growers in your area might have signed up to be listed on our farm to school map directory. These are growers specifically looking to partner with local schools and will be pleased to hear from you!
  • The FarmtoSchoolMarketplace Listserv: for Farmers and School Food Professionals to connect directly. The purpose of this list is to facilitate the sale of agricultural products that become available as the season dictates. For more information, check out this page.
  • Staff Assistance! Tray Farmer Liaison: Looking for a farm to connect to but feeling overwhelmed? Contact Shannon Raider-Ginsburg for assistance at and she can help you out 1-on-1 connect to a grower in your area.
  • HeartCTGrown: For everyone to use! Check out this site of farms, farm stands, pick your own operations, and farmer's markets in each county if you're simply looking for a farm to visit or purchase from yourself. Like HeartCTGrown on Facebook, too!
  • Farmers Market Trail: Check out the site (or their Facebook page) for a few options of farmer's markets to visit or sign up for the newsletter for some updates on the markets listed as part of the trail. We encourage anyone to get to a market to meet some farmers, ask some questions, and get some fresh and delicious food that supports a family in your community!

Get Inspired!