Lunchtime Solutions celebrates ‘Turnip the Beet’ award-winning summer meal programs
This spring, five schools served by Lunchtime Solutions were recognized by the United States Department of Agriculture with Turnip the Beet awards for their summer programs in 2021, with three being honored for the second time. The award was created to showcase summer meal sponsors who are going above and beyond to ensure that children in their care are receiving high-quality meals that are both nutritious and appetizing.
Only 84 districts were recognized nationwide.
At Lunchtime Solutions, we believe child nutrition is important all year round. Through helping our school partners provide high quality summer meal programs, we help them ensure continued availability of nutritious meals to students, positively impacting children’s growth and development and encouraging them to develop healthy habits at a young age.
“We could not be prouder of our schools that are being recognized for their summer meal programs, providing their students with healthy, delicious meals with a little splash of fun,” said Tammy Coyle, Vice President of Operations and Finance for Lunchtime Solutions. “We are very fortunate to have strong partnerships and support from our customers that allow us to provide successful summer feeding, and being recognized with the Turnip and Beet award makes it extra special for us and our customers.”
According to the USDA’s award criteria, winners showcase their excellence by serving a variety of vegetables and fruits throughout the week; serving whole grains and dairy products; and serving culturally-appropriate meals.
Let us introduce our winning partners to you!
Vermillion School District, Vermillion, SD — Gold Level Award
Vermillion was the only summer meal sponsor in the state of South Dakota to be recognized with a Turnip the Beet gold-level award for its efforts in 2021, receiving the highest level distinction offered. The district won a bronze level award for its program in 2018, the last year it was offered.
Vermillion School District’s partnership with Lunchtime Solutions has been key to having a great team in place to implement a stellar food service program year-round, said Dr. Damon Alvey, superintendent of Vermillion schools. “We’ve partnered with Lunchtime for more than 20 years,” Alvey said. “Their dedication to quality and service is evident in every aspect of their work.”
Vermillion’s Summer Food Service Program was the first thing Food Service Director Rachelle Loutsch was involved with when she joined the Lunchtime Solutions team four years ago, and she said she looks forward to leading the district’s summer meals program every year. “The students have an indescribable joy in the summertime, and the laughter and happiness fills the elementary gym unlike any regular school day,” Loutsch said.
In the summer of 2021, our team in Vermillion served on average more than 177 lunches per day.
Storm Lake Community School District, Storm Lake, IA — Silver Level Award
Storm Lake was one of three summer meal sponsors in the state of Iowa to be recognized with a “Turnip the Beet” award for its efforts in 2021. Storm Lake was also the highest scoring district in the state, receiving silver level distinction. The district won a bronze level award for its program in 2018, the last year it was offered.
“Students who need a ride can hop on a bus and join us for lunch and get a ride back home,” said Whitney Vohs, Food Service Director for Lunchtime Solutions. “We also have some activities for students to partake in after they eat and while they wait for the bus.”
Due to the impacts of Covid on the Storm Lake community, last year the district decided to implement 7 drop sites throughout the community for meals to-go in addition to in-person meals. In person meals and Meals to Go were served Monday-Thursday. Boxes were distributed on Thursdays for Meals To Go Friday-Sunday. The Lunchtime food service team at Storm Lake also had help from the district, along with 50 workers from the community, Vohs said.
“It was a lot of work, but our team did an amazing job to ensure meals were packed and ready to go out on time,” she said. “The delivery staff at each site helped encourage students to get up and play or read a book. It was fun to watch!”
Storm Lake’s summer program has been growing in popularity. In the summer of 2021, our team in Storm Lake served on average more than 406 breakfasts and more than 457 lunches per day.
Vohs is active in serving and engaging with the children to hear their feedback on a daily basis — what they like, don’t like and want to see more often. The food service team asked students what they would like to see over the summer for meals, adding spicier items to the menu to accommodate different taste buds, she said. They also put some of the most popular lunch entrees throughout the school year on the menu, and offered a variety of options that include beef, chicken, and pork entrees.
Lake City Public Schools, Lake City, MN — Silver Level Award
Only six summer meal sponsors in the state of Minnesota were recognized with a bronze, silver or gold “Turnip the Beet” award for their efforts in 2021. Lake City received a silver-level award.
In 2021, Lake City Public Schools served breakfast and lunch during its summer meal program, which is free for children ages 1-18. Due to the impacts of Covid on the Lake City community, the district worked with Lunchtime Solutions to implement both in-person daily meals and weekly packs of to-go meals. The weekly pantry boxes contained 7 lunches and 7 breakfasts. The team even figured out how to send gallons and half gallons of milk and juice with the boxes. Meals were packed unassembled so sandwiches would not get soggy.
“We are extremely proud of the award and the overall efforts our Lunchtime team put into ensuring the quality of the meals we served this past summer,” said Lake City Superintendent Erick Enger. Lunchtime Solutions is the K-12 food service management company that partners with Lake City to run its food service program.
Lake City’s summer program has been growing in popularity. In the summer of 2021, staff served on average more than 450 breakfasts and 470 lunches per day. The Lunchtime food service team at Lake City had several volunteers and help from the district to make the summer program happen last year, said Jill Duitsman, Food Service Director for Lunchtime Solutions.
“It definitely took a lot of planning when implementing all these choices to not only ensure students received nutritious meals but also ones that they like. Together we fed a lot of students and had a fun time doing so. Everyone who was part of the process deserves this award and recognition,” Duitsman said. “We are fortunate to be able to work with a great school and community that truly cares about feeding the students.”
Zumbrota-Mazeppa Public Schools, another district whose food service program was operated by Lunchtime Solutions under Duitsman’s leadership in 2021, also won a Turnip the Beet Silver Award.
Maryville R-II School District, Maryville, MO — Bronze Level Award
Maryville was the only summer meal sponsor in the state of Missouri to be recognized with a Turnip the Beet award for its efforts in 2021. The district won a bronze level award for its program in 2018, the last year it was offered, and again in 2021.
“We are proud to serve our student customers healthy and delicious meals year-round, and an added benefit is that, during the summer, they are free to all children 18 and younger,” said Amber Volner, Food Service Director for Lunchtime Solutions.
The unlimited fruit and veggie bar offered at each Lunchtime Solutions summer meal contains at least four choices each days, including a variety of items like mixed lettuce, carrot sticks, green peppers, fresh watermelon and sliced pears to appeal to all ages. Most entrees served appeal primarily to younger children, such as hot dogs, but there are also more adventurous offerings geared to appeal to older childrens’ taste, such as hot pepperoni subs and chicken teriyaki sandwiches.