At the end of June, Nevada Schools received noteworthy news about its summer feeding program, Food For Thought.
The district was named a silver award winner in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “Turnip the Beet” competition. Nevada School District was also one of just three districts in Iowa to receive the award, which recognizes outstanding summer meals program sponsors who have distinguished themselves with high-quality meals that are appetizing, appealing and wholesome.
Stephanie Dross, the education program consultant in the Bureau of Nutrition & Health Services for the Iowa Department of Education, said she assisted Nevada’s former food service director, David Schmitz, with his work on behalf of the district to apply for this award.
“What has impressed me about the summer meals program at Nevada Community School District is how they work in partnership with organizations to serve a high-quality meal, provide great customer service to the children participating in the program and enhance the services available at the site via multiple enrichment activities and transportation supports,” Dross said.
“The food service staff are diligent about providing a wide variety of menu options, including fresh foods, and supporting ‘farm to summer activities’ with the inclusion of locally grown and sourced foods,” she said.
Schmitz invited the Nevada Journal to come to the school during the previous years to see the great meals being served over the summer months to any child age 18 or under who wanted to come in and eat. Schmitz always took great pride in the partnerships that the district had with organizations like FFA, United Way of Story County, Heart of Iowa Regional Transit Agency, Nevada Kiwanis, Nevada Public Library and Youth and Shelter Services, all helping to make the summer meals and education program possible.
This year, Food For Thought, which offers educational programming in the mornings through Youth and Shelter Services, is once again serving delicious meals to anyone 18 years old or younger in the Nevada area. The program is now located at the middle and high school buildings.
Sara Brekke, who is in charge of meals for the program this year, said 120 kids who participate in Food For Thought are being served, along with about 20 other kids who show up just for lunch. Also, the 75 kids who recently participated in the district’s Camp Invention® also participated in the noon meal.
Brekke — who along with a former Nevada Food Service director, Candy Anderson, will co-direct Nevada Schools food service this coming school year — said she was thrilled to see Nevada get the “Turnip the Beet” award, and she applauded the efforts of everyone involved.
“It takes a whole staff and they work very hard and are very dedicated (to the work),” Brekke said. “Everybody wants the best for our kids.”
Brekke also thanked all the volunteers who help serve meals. “We really depend on them and they’re a great help. We’ve had Story County Construction (employees), Kiwanis (members) and (people from the) Friendship Ark.” She also gave a huge thank-you to Burke Corp., which donated over $8,000 in food for this year’s program.
Brekke’s biggest goal is to see the program grow in the coming years, especially since it’s not income-based. She’d love to see more people do what Marie Mills has done on many days — bring her own kids over to enjoy a meal. The Mills family lives right across the street from Nevada High School, so it’s a perfect lunch for a family with eight children. Even mom can eat, because those older than 18 can eat if they pay $2 for the breakfast meal or $4 for the lunch meal.
Dross said there are now many schools and communities participating in summer feeding programs. “Summer meal programs play a valuable role in providing healthy and nutritious meals to children when school is not in session, so that children can return to school in the fall ready to learn,” Dross said.