Skip to main content

Turnip the Beet on Summer Meals

Posted by Tanuja Kulkarni, MS MPH RDN, Nutritionist, USDA Food and Nutrition Service, Child Nutrition Programs in Food and Nutrition Nutrition Security Equity
Mar 22, 2024
Hall County School Nutrition (Georgia), 2022 Turnip the Beet silver award winner

It’s award season! USDA is excited to highlight summer meal sponsors who go above and beyond to ensure children receive nutritious, appetizing meals.

Summer represents a crucial time of year to fight hunger and support good nutrition for our nation’s youth. The 2023 Turnip the Beet awards celebrate heroes from a variety of organizations, including schools, local government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and camps who sponsor USDA summer meal programs and provide free meals and snacks to kids during the summer months. These vital partners help fill a hunger and nutrition void, playing a meaningful role in making sure children have the nutrition they need to learn, grow and thrive.

It’s a moment for these unsung leaders to shine.

As in year’s past, this crop of winners excelled in many ways: serving an array of vegetables and fruits throughout the week; offering whole grains and low-fat dairy products; and providing culturally appropriate meals, so no child is ever excluded. Other partners leveraged feedback from participants to refine their menus. One of the gold winners, North Hills Cares, Inc. (Pennsylvania), conducted a survey for families about meal options. In it, children were encouraged to mark their favorites and rate new options they sampled, enabling sponsors to better accommodate culinary preferences.

Creativity was another defining feature of our 2023 champions. Some offered nutrition education activities along with their meals. Lodi Family Center (Ohio), a gold award winner, hosted cooking and gardening classes as part of their program. Engaged kids harvested the fruits and vegetables in the morning, then dedicated chefs prepared them later for lunch and snacks. The practice helped introduce children to new foods and skills, while educating them on the origin of their meals. The results were a reward in and of itself: The program experienced an increase in vegetable consumption and a welcomed decrease in food waste.

For efforts in summer 2023, 55 gold, 67 silver and 18 bronze awardees were honored for their commitment to a healthier future for our kids. Congratulations to all the winners!

USDA will host the Turnip the Beet awards again next year to recognize summer meal sponsors that go the extra mile in 2024. If you’re interested in nominating another unsung leader in this area, check out the FNS Turnip the Beet website for more information.

Learn about all the ways USDA is supporting children in the summer at the link below: