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USDA Celebrates 2022 Summer Meals Champions and Looks Ahead to Summer 2023

Posted by Tony Craddock, Jr., Public Affairs Specialist, Food and Nutrition Service in Food and Nutrition Nutrition Security Rural
Feb 28, 2023
A school staff member hands a snack to a student

Millions of children face a risk of hunger during the summer months when they no longer have access to school meals. USDA’s summer meal programs – the Summer Food Service Program and Seamless Summer Option – reduce food and nutrition insecurity and help ensure kids are healthy and ready to learn when they return to school in the fall. Nationwide, thousands of dedicated organizations sponsor summer meal programs and work tirelessly to offer high quality meals that are appealing and nutritious.

The Turnip the Beet Award showcases summer meal sponsors that go above and beyond to serve kids appetizing, high-quality meals. Recently, the Food and Nutrition Service recognized 98 summer meal sponsors with Gold, Silver or Bronze awards for going the extra mile in 2022. The complete list of 2022 Turnip the Beet Award Winners can be found on the Food and Nutrition Service website.

If you know a summer meal sponsor in your area that’s excelling at serving kids, nominate them for a 2023 Turnip the Beet Award through this Turnip the Beet nomination form!

Looking ahead to summer 2023, we look forward to better serving kids in rural areas, thanks to legislation passed by Congress. Historically, the on-site, group feeding requirement for summer meals has been a barrier for some rural communities trying to connect kids with healthy meals. The challenges include the lack of transportation, centrally located facilities to host a site, and funds to support enrichment activities – to name a few.

Now, approved summer meal sites in certain rural areas can distribute meals to kids without requiring them to be served in a group setting. This means program operators can use alternative models to better meet their communities’ needs. For example, instead of serving in-person meals, an approved school or library could potentially allow families to pick up a week’s-worth of meals for their children.

These flexible meal service options are monumental wins in the fight to end childhood hunger and they’re expected to benefit nearly eight million children in rural areas.

Students tend to their school's garden beds