The Michigan Apple Committee is reaching out to the state’s hospitals to get more Michigan apples into hospital cafeterias.

The DeWitt-based committee is hosting eight tours this fall, one for Michigan hospital foodservice directors and members of the Michigan Hospital Association’s Green Health Care Initiative Committee, which helps hospitals source local products for cafeterias.

The hospital foodservice personnel will tour a Michigan apple orchard and packinghouse and then attend a small trade show with Michigan shippers.

“We’ll have foodservice directors, nutritionists, from all different hospitals,” Donohue said. “We’ll help them understand the magnitude of the apple industry here.”

Donohue said the hospital association’s Green Health Care Initiative Committee is trying to double its consumption of Michigan apples.

It is also making sure foodservice distributors, including Gordon Food Service in Grand Rapids, Mich., as well as U.S. Foodservice and Sysco, have all the Michigan product codes to ease their ordering.

“We’ve seen increasing interest among our customers to support local growers,” said George Monahan, category director for fruits, vegetables and dairy for Gordon Food Service.

“Gordon Food Service’s approach has been to offer our customers choice. We carry products from established regions as well as local offerings.”

Monahan said the company works with local growers to ensure they have food safety standards in place before sourcing their products.

“Michigan apples have been a great part of Gordon Food Service’s local produce effort,” Monahan said. “Michigan has strong growers who take tremendous pride in their fruit, and customer response has been encouraging — both in Michigan and across other states we serve.”

The Michigan Apple Committee also has big plans for the 2010 National Restaurant Association Hotel, Motel and Restaurant Show in Chicago.

“One of our block grants is to do something bigger at the NRA show,” Donohue said. “It’s a joint venture.”

The joint venture is through the Michigan Horticultural Society, Donohue said, and may include peaches. The busiest booths at this year’s show were the ones that had cooking demonstrations going on, so Donohue said the committee may try to do something more active in its booth this year.

North Bay Produce Inc., Traverse City, Mich., does most of its foodservice business with schools and institutions, including prisons, said Nick Osmulski, sales manager. Smaller apples, 138 count or 125 count, are big in those outlets, Osmulski said.

Pat Chase, sales and field representative for Jack Brown Produce Inc., Sparta, Mich., said schools in Michigan, especially, are very interested in Michigan apples.

“Definitely there’s a buy local theme,” Chase said. “A number of chains in the state are wanting to know who the grower is and how long they’ve been growing.”