Nashville – The Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) honored the second annual No Tennessee Child Hungry Excellence Award recipients during a ceremony held in the Old Supreme Court Chambers of the State Capitol Building.
Tennessee’s Summer Food Service Program consisted of more than 70 sponsors at about 2,300 sites who served nearly 3.6 million meals to children across Tennessee. Tennessee’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) is intended to ensure that children who benefit from free and reduced price meals during the school year have access to nutritious meals during the summer months. The No Tennessee Child Hungry Excellence Awards were established in 2015 as a way to recognize the hard work and dedication of SFSP sponsors and sites.
“We greatly appreciate the time, hard work, and dedication put forth by SFSP sponsors, sites and volunteers. Because of them, thousands of children across the state received meals who live in food insecure environments,” said TDHS Commissioner Dr. Raquel Hatter. “This is a tremendous support to many Tennessee families. It’s a great example of partnering with purpose.”
USDA Food and Nutrition Service Southeast Regional Administrator Robin Bailey, News Channel 2 WKRN anchor Dawn Davenport, News Channel 5 WTVF meteorologist Bree Smith, TDHS Commissioner Dr. Hatter and additional members of the TDHS leadership team joined in honoring the award recipients.
“The USDA Food and Nutrition Service commends all who had a hand in providing nutritious meals to children across the state this past summer and congratulates the 2016 Excellence Award winners. Additionally, we appreciate state leadership and its commitment to ensuring children have access to healthy meals during the summer”, said Food and Nutrition Service Southeast Regional Administrator, Robin Bailey.
TDHS Chief Officer of Programs and Services Cherrell Campbell Street added, “Providing nearly 4 million meals to children across the state is a huge accomplishment made possible by those honored here today, and all SFSP participants. We congratulate them on their success and appreciate their continued commitment to the well-being of Tennessee’s children.”
Award categories included the Impact Award, Trailblazer Award, Healthy Happy Meals Award, Shining Star Award and special Rising Star Award.
Award winners are listed below in detail:
Trailblazer Award: The Trailblazer Award was presented to the Knoxville-Knox County Community Action Committee (CAC) for demonstrating innovative ideas when implementing its summer food program. The Knoxville Knox County CAC has provided children summer meals since the 1960’s. In summer 2016, it extended its reach to low-income housing communities in a first time partnership with the Knoxville Knox County Head Start program. Through the partnership, Head Start allowed use of two buses that were used to deliver meals to approximately 448 additional children through this special outreach effort. The Knoxville Knox County plans to expand mobile outreach sites next summer as well.
Impact Award: This year the Impact Award went to two organizations for their strategies to reach more children: Shelby County Schools and the Southwest Human Resource Agency.
As one of the early adopters of the Summer Food Service Program, Shelby County Schools continues to expand availability of meals across Memphis. The Shelby County Department of Nutrition Services serves as program sponsor and provided meals to more than 600 meal sites in summer 2016. Serving eight counties in the west Tennessee area, the Southwest Human Resource Agency increased its reach by 22%, adding 50 meal sites to its roster in summer 2016. The Southwest Human Resources Agency has been a SFSP sponsor for more than 10 years.
Healthy Happy Meals Award: The Healthy Happy Meals Award was presented to the Tri- County Upward Bound at Austin Peay State University. The Tri-County Upward Bound program provides academic classes, counseling, tutoring, test prep, enrichment and more to teens in Cheatham, Houston, and Stewart counties on throughout the school year and summer. As part of its summer program, the Tri-County Upward Bound program spent time designing meal options that were appealing and nutritious for participating teens.
Shining Star Award: The Shining Star Award was presented to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee, for excellence in all award categories. Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee has been a SFSP sponsor for more than 16 years. It provides meals to children in urban areas and has partnered with rural community organizations for greater reach. Second Harvest offers a variety of SFSP meal options for sites, with nutritious meal combinations prepared at their own facility. This year as part of its SFSP kick-off, Second Harvest hosted an on-site field trip that allowed children to prepare food and learn about the nutritional benefits of each ingredient. The children also participated in a Farm 2 Families demonstration in which they planted a fruit or vegetable seed that they could take home and watch grow.
Rising Star Award: For the second year, a special Rising Star Award was presented to 11-year-old Myka Coward. Myka came to the Department’s attention in 2015 for her efforts to provide school lunches to classmates in need. Myka started Lemonade for Lunches three years ago. Each summer she operates a lemonade stand, with all proceeds used for school lunches at her school. This year Myka reached an all-time high of $600 in sales, which she gave to two school cafeterias at the start of the school year.
Following the awards ceremony, honorees had much to say about the work that led to the award win.
“We served almost 160,000 lunches in 10 weeks, and 60,000 breakfasts in the same time frame. It’s a big collaborative effort among all of our volunteers and site supervisors. The best part of serving summer meals is seeing children’s faces when they receive a meal and knowing they won’t be going hungry,” said Patti Pickler, Director of Community Outreach for the Southwest Human Resource Agency.
Calvin Johnson, Shelby County Schools Director of Nutrition Operations commented about the school system reaching many children, but there being an unmet need because often families don’t know about the program. He added, “I accept this award on behalf of people I worked with in the past and currently for all the hard work and dedication they have rendered to Shelby County Schools and children throughout the county.”
Second time award winner Myka Coward and her family were on hand, along with her younger sister who has begun her own charitable work.
“When we started Lemonade for Lunches we weren’t aware that the need was out there. Now that Myka’s been at it for 3 years, we see there is a tremendous need, not just in our county but across the whole state. We are very proud of Myka and that she’s willing to help in any way she can,” said Randa Sturgill, mother of Rising Star Award winner Myka Coward.
Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee was also recognized for showing innovation and creativity with children served throughout the summer.
“Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee is grateful to partner with the Summer Food Service Program to provide meals to at-risk children during the summer months,” says Whitney Cowles, Director of Nutrition and Program Assurance at Second Harvest. “Through this partnership, Second Harvest worked with organizations in 10 counties across Middle and West Tennessee to serve more than 34,000 meals to children in need. With one in four children in Tennessee at risk for hunger, it is important for us to continue working together to ensure no children in Tennessee go hungry.”
To learn more about the Tennessee Department of Human Services and the No Tennessee Child Should Go Hungry initiative visit: http://www.tn.gov/humanservices/article/dhs-tn-foodprograms-initiative.
To add your strength, send an email to NoHungryTennesseeChild.DHS@tn.gov. Join the call to action for Tennesseans to fight hunger in their local communities by donating, volunteering, raising awareness and other activities that support the end of hunger.