Apr 06, 2017
When thinking of summer meal programs, what comes to mind? Hot lunches and fresh produce bars? Themed menus made with fresh, local foods? Taste tests and cooking lessons? Summer meal sponsors nationwide are working hard to make sure these practices are the new norms, and the positive movement is spreading.
To recognize these outstanding sponsors—sponsors who are dedicated to offering high quality summer meals –USDA created an award affectionately known as Turnip the Beet.
Summer meals are critical in the lives of millions of our nation’s youth, whose risk of food insecurity increases during the summer months when they no longer have access to the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and the School Breakfast Program. However, summer meals are not simply about preventing hunger. In fact, the Federal summer meal programs, including the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and the Seamless Summer Option (SSO) within the NSLP, have the opportunity to positively impact children’s growth and development by offering nutritious meals and encouraging children to develop healthy habits at a young age. High quality summer meals provide energy day-to-day, and help make sure children are healthy and ready to learn when they return to school in the fall.
The goal of Turnip the Beet is to showcase summer meal program sponsors who are going above and beyond to ensure their meals are both nutritious and appetizing. States volunteered to participate in the recognition program, and all sponsors participating in the summer meal programs were eligible to apply.
Applications were evaluated on a list of criteria, including: serving local foods; serving a variety of vegetables and fruits throughout the week; serving whole grains and low-fat or fat-free dairy products and serving culturally-appropriate meals. A total of 49 sponsors earned a bronze, silver or gold award for their efforts in 2016.
Sponsors demonstrated excellence in a variety of ways, like providing fresh fruit daily; conducting taste tests with the children (and incorporating the feedback into the menus); serving a variety of whole grains and offering nutrition education activities along with the meals.
To continue encouraging high quality meals and recognizing sponsors’ efforts, USDA plans to host the Turnip the Beet awards again in 2017; information on criteria and nominations will be available later this year.
Congratulations to all of the 2016 Turnip the Beet winners, and thanks for your dedication to child nutrition! Keep up the great work! The 41 sponsors who earned gold or silver awards are listed below.
Gold Turnip the Beet Awardees:
Abilene Public Schools (Kan.)
Baldwin County School Nutrition (Ga.)
Lakeside Union School District (Calif.)
Buncombe County Schools (N.C.)
Northern Illinois Food Bank (Ill.)
Carrollton City Schools (Ga.)
OLHSA Meet Up and Eat Up (Mich.)
Chapel Hill & Carrboro City Schools Food for the Summer (N.C.)
Wauzeka-Steuben School District (Wis.)