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'Turnip the Beet' Recognizes High Quality Summer Meals

Posted by Rachel Polon, MPH, RD, Nutritionist, Food and Nutrition Service in Food and Nutrition
Apr 06, 2017
A boy eating an apple
Summer meals are critical in the lives of millions of our nation’s youth.

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.)


Silver Turnip the Beet Awardees:


Brantley County Summer Lunch Program (Ga.)

Manteca Unified Nutrition Education (Calif.)

Buchanan Community Schools (Mich.)

Marietta City Schools School Nutrition Program (Ga.)

Calvert County Public Schools Judy Centers (Md.)

Natomas Unified School District Nutrition Services (Calif.)

Carroll County School Nutrition Program (Ga.)

North Lawrence Community Schools (Ind.)

Cherokee County School Nutrition Program (Ga.)

Oklahoma Regional Food Bank’s Hope Kitchen (Okla.)

City of Aurora Parks, Recreation and Open Space (Colo.)

Putnam County Schools (Tenn.)

Coahoma County School District (Miss.)

Owensboro Public Schools (Ky.)

Cumberland County School Nutrition (Tenn.)

Sheboygan Area School District (Wis.)

Dare to Care Community Kitchen (Ky.)

Swope Corridor Renaissance (Mo.)

Douglas County Schools (Ga.)

Tallapoosa County Schools (Ala.)

Fenton Area Public Schools (Mich.)

True Vine Life Center (Miss.)

Floyd County Schools (Ga.)

Tuscaloosa County School System (Ala.)

Fulton County School Nutrition Program (Ga.)

West Contra Costa Unified School District (Calif.)

Green Bay Area Public Schools (Wis.)

YMCA of Western North Carolina (N.C.)

Hope Public School District (Ark.)

YWCA of Adams County (Neb.)

Lawrence County Social Services (Pa.)


Don’t forget to check out the monthly USDA Summer Meal Newsletters for more information on all of the great things happening in the summer meal programs!

Category/Topic: Food and Nutrition