Generous Washington apple growers are helping children from disadvantaged homes eat a healthier diet.

Second Harvest is delivering bins filled with bags of fresh apples to high-need schools where students struggle with hunger. So far this year, 16 schools received more than 34,000 pounds of bagged apples that went home with thousands of children.

At Whitman Elementary School, where 79 percent of the students receive free and reduced price meals, more than 100 students made thank you cards with messages expressing heartfelt gratitude. Additional group cards arrived that were signed by entire classrooms of children.

A handmade card sent by Abbie, a third-grade student said, “Thank you for the delicious apples. My family loved the apples.” Abbie further explained that her mother recently had surgery and her brother sprained his knee, adding “the apples helped a lot.”  

A Whitman student named Alyx said thank you for the apples and added, “Me and my mom and sister ate the apples and then we had some left and made pie. It was good.”

Since last summer, Second Harvest has received 2.7 million pounds of donated apples that have been appreciated by partner charities and the low-income families and seniors they help. The produce distributions were piloted in Spokane County to get more healthy food to schoolchildren at a time when one in four kids struggles with hunger.

Matt Truitt, principal at Willard Elementary School where 81 percent of the children rely on free and reduced price meals, said many of the students’ families are struggling financially and lack the resources to buy enough healthy food.

 “We’re excited,” Truitt said. “A lot of the students do not have enough fruits and vegetables over the weekend, so getting fresh apples on a Friday afternoon means a great deal to these kids.”

The apples were a major hit with the 560 Willard students – including a bus full of children who chimed “Happy Apple Day” to each other while showing off their colorful bags of apples.