(Oct. 14) NEW YORK — The trend toward healthier eating is continuing in New York public schools.

The New York City Department of Education announced earlier this month it plans to source New York-grown apples as part of its efforts to increase fruit and vegetable consumption in school lunchrooms.

The decision affects 1.1 million students in 1,164 New York City public schools, which serve about 810,000 meals a day — the most in the nation.

The announcement of the partnership between New York’s apple growers and the Department of Education was made Oct. 3 by New York State Agriculture Commissioner Nathan Rodgers and school officials during a visit to a public school in East Harlem.

New York Gov. George Pataki praised the department for its decision, adding that the citywide initiative will promote healthy children during a time when obesity is one of the nation’s biggest health problems.

“This new partnership is a win-win for the state’s apple growers and our schoolchildren,” Pataki said. “New York’s orchards produce some of the world’s finest apples and we are strongly supportive of these efforts to ensure a healthy nutritious diet for our schoolchildren.”

New York City is participating in a pilot program with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Defense during the 2003-04 school year that will put $3.2 million of fruits and vegetables into school meals.

“We’re grateful that the Department of Education has chosen to treat New York City’s 1 million school kids with a daily serving of fresh and healthy New York-grown apples,” said David McClurg, vice president of marketing for the New York Apple Association, Fishers. “We thank everyone involved for choosing New York apples for New York kids.”

The announcement of the partnership came during New York Harvest for New York Kids Week, a statewide effort to promote the importance of New York agriculture and a major part of the state’s Farm-to-School initiative. The initiative is an effort designed to improve health and nutrition in New York schoolchildren and promote the purchase of New York agricultural commodities by schools and universities.