Owensboro Public Schools food service staff were recognized for their 2018 outstanding summer meal program by the United States Department of Agriculture.
In its third year, the “Turnip the Beet” award recognizes “outstanding summer meal program sponsors who distinguish themselves with high-quality meals that are appetizing, appealing and wholesome,” according to the media release.
Kaitlyn Blankendaal, Food Service Director for OPS said that it is great to be recognized for the over 1,000 meals they serve each summer.
“The summer feeding staff works really hard to meet this need in our community,” Blankendaal said of the staff who reports to work beginning the Monday after school is released for the summer.
Blankendaal said that the district food service staff constantly assesses what students say about the meals, and they ask for student feedback about what is being served.
“We are here to feed them [the students]. Do they like it and enjoy it?” Blankendaal said of the importance of student input on the taste tests they conduct throughout the year.
There are specific guidelines that the district food service department has to meet, such as lean proteins and offering fat-free milk as a choice, but Blankendaal said one of her priorities is to serve what the students like.
While the staff celebrates this award, as one of 118 winners nationwide, Blankendaal is thinking about next year’s application and has been working with the FRYSC team to change the current summer program.
On Wednesdays, FRYSC is taking the district’s mobile unit to the students and passing out necessities for those in attendance. One week the attendees were given toothbrushes and toothpaste with dental information; another week they were given books and math flashcards. FRYSC is hoping to hand out school supplies as time gets closer to the beginning of school.
According to the release, Turnip the Beet winners are perfect examples of how summer meal programs can serve nutritious meals while providing information to children and teens to develop lifelong nutritional habits.
“It really is just community outreach,” Blankendaal said.