The state of Illinois picked one of its major crops as its official snack food. Illinois is the third largest grower of popcorn in the United States, so, as you can guess, the official snack of Illinois is popcorn, and was adopted in 2003.
There are at least 333 popcorn (Zea mays everta) growers in Illinois, with 47,000 acres of land given over to the purpose. Ridgeway, Illinois, in fact, calls itself “the popcorn capital of the world.” They have to compete with at least five others, though: Valparaiso, Indiana; Van Buren, Indiana; Schaller, Iowa; Marion, Ohio, and North Loup, Nebraska.
However, the decision to adopt popcorn wasn’t as easy as popping a bag into the microwave; it took years of heated debate. There were other contenders such as Beer Nuts, Lemonhead candy, and other snacks made in the state. The decision was finally made after second and third graders from Cunningham Elementary in Joliet, Illinois, along with teacher Fran Hollister, made a class project urging that popcorn be made the official snack food. State Senator Larry Walsh sponsored the proposal and the General Assembly made it official in 2003. Some claim that Illinois, being only the third largest producer of the crop, did not have a very good reason for making it the state snack. The Popcorn Institute, however, is in Chicago, and although the state may not rival the largest producers of popcorn it has just as much right laying claim to popcorn as its designated favorite snack as any other place.
What States Produce the Most Popcorn?
As stated above, Illinois is the third largest popcorn-producing state. Most of the nation’s popcorn is grown in Nebraska, and Indiana. An increasing amount is being grown in Texas, as well. Although Native Americans had been using popcorn since around 3,600 B.C.Although the “first Thanksgiving” story, with Quadequina bring popcorn to the Pilgrims, is probably untrue, Native Americans probably did teach early pioneers about the food. Early New Englanders did not take to calling it popcorn right away. At first, they called it “popped corn.”
Popcorn did not really become an important crop until around 1890. Before that time, people would grow their own or buy it from their neighbors. Since then, it has become profitable enough to be called “prairie gold.”