School Nutrition Employees Win National Honor

Johnston County Public Schools is one of 13 Summer Nutrition Program sponsors in the state this year to receive a Turnip the Beet award.

The awards are given by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to recognize outstanding providers who work hard to offer high quality meals that are appetizing, appealing and nutritious.

According to Dana Edwards, Director of School Nutrition Services, feeding the students of Johnston County Public Schools a healthy meal is very rewarding, and the smiles on the faces of children eating is priceless.

“Being able to share nutritious meals with students during the summer, we believe is a tremendous asset to the community,” said Edwards. “We strive to serve students the most popular entrees during the summer months along with fresh fruits and vegetables..”

Lynn Harvey, chief of School Nutrition Services at the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, said the state’s Summer Nutrition Program sponsors work hard to ensure that children do not go hungry when school is not in session.

“It’s exciting to see thirteen of our program sponsors’ efforts recognized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture with the Turnip the Beet award,” Harvey said. “We know they work hard to provide meals that are nutritious and appealing to children, and to ensure that those who need these meals the most are aware of their availability.”

The Turnip the Beet award showcases sponsors who go above and beyond to ensure their meals are both nutritious and appetizing. States volunteer to participate in the recognition program, and all sponsors participating in the one of programs were eligible to apply. Johnston County Public Schools was one of 111 sponsors nationwide to receive the award.

“We are so proud of our school nutrition staff,” said Dana Edwards, Director of School Nutrition Services. “The work they do is amazing, and I am thankful for what they do each day for the students of Johnston County.

Contenders were evaluated on a number of criteria, including serving local foods, a variety of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, low-fat or fat-free dairy products, and culturally appropriate meals.

Riverwood Elementary School Nutrition staff (from left) are Sindys Barahona, Tami Elias, Marcia Murray, manager Adrianne Begley, and Wendy McDaniel.

Winning sponsors demonstrated excellence in such ways as including providing fresh fruit daily, serving a variety of whole grains, conducting taste tests with the children (and incorporating the feedback into the menus), and offering nutrition education activities.

All winners will receive a certificate and be featured in USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) Newsletter, and Johnston County Public Schools will be highlighted in a USDA blog post.

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 don’t have access to the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program. North Carolina Summer Nutrition Programs serve meals at no cost to children and teens, ages 18 and younger, at almost 3,000 locations across the state. When school is out, North Carolina Summer Nutrition Programs work with sponsors, local education agencies and community partners to help feed children and make sure these students are healthy and ready to learn when they return to school.

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction School Nutrition Services administers the Summer Nutrition Program using federal funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Citizens and organizations interested in more information about getting involved as a site provider or volunteering at a summer meals site should contact NCDPI Summer Nutrition Programs Manager Cynthia Ervin.

USDA and NCDPI are equal opportunity providers and employers. Additional information regarding North Carolina School Nutrition Programs can be found on the School Nutrition Services website.