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Districts, organization honored for outstanding practices in child nutrition programs

Posted: Aug 17, 2021
Author: Ann Bush

Three Kansas school districts and one child care organization were recently honored for outstanding practices in Child Nutrition and Wellness programs that help support the Kansans Can vision.

The Kansans Can 2020-2021 Best Practice Awards were presented by Cheryl Johnson, Child Nutrition and Wellness (CNW) director for the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE), during the Aug. 10, 2021, Kansas State Board of Education meeting in Topeka. This is the fifth year for the awards.

The Kansans Can vision, which was established by the State Board in 2015, is Kansas leads the world in the success of each student.

Recipients of the Kansans Can Celebrate Nutrition and Wellness Special Events are Wamego Unified School District 320 and Haven USD 312.

Wamego USD 320 food service and the Wamego Public Library teamed up for the Cooks and Books program, a six-week program that provided nutrition education and literacy resources to children in grades kindergarten through 12th. Participating families were given a toolkit with needed equipment, and each week, Take and Make bags containing the ingredients for a healthy snack were provided at the library.

“During the first week, they distributed half of the 100 toolkits and ran out of the 50 Take and Make bags within 30 minutes,” according to CNW.

Farm-to-Table is a special and integral part of the child wellness program at Haven USD 312. Each year to celebrate Farm-to-Table, the child wellness program has the Farm to Table BBQ and Field Day. The family event, which takes place at Haven Grade School, highlights local farmers and small businesses. Local providers help secure food resources for the event.

The Haven High School Greenhouse provided romaine lettuce for the hamburgers, and the Haven High School Future Farmers of America (FFA) organization members and school agriculture classes provided educational opportunities to learn about how every part of the barbecue meal comes from a farm. Through a connection found with Shop Kansas Farms, they were able to locate a baker to create hamburger buns for the event, ensuring each component served was a local product.

“The Farm to Table Family BBQ and Field Day not only was a showcase and celebration of local foods, but it brought the community together after a difficult year of pandemic separation,” CNW said.

The recipient of the Kansans Can Provide Outstanding Customer Service is Southern Lyon County USD 252.

“When district and community families were in need, the Southern Lyon County food service team stepped up to serve,” CNW said. “The Southern Lyon County food service program participated in the Farm-to-Family box program during the pandemic, distributing free food to community members and families in the school district.”

The food service team received a load of vegetables, fruits, meat, milk and other dairy products that were distributed to three communities throughout the district. At times, the line for food distribution was three blocks long, underscoring the need for nutritious food.

“The Farm-to-Family box program helped Southern Lyon County food service increase awareness of their programs and services, leading to a remarkable increase in breakfasts and lunches served during the 2020-2021 school year,” according to CNW.

The recipient of the Kansans Can Step Up to Lead is Child Care Links. Beth Carlton, director of Child Care Links, and her staff members displayed leadership and dedication when faced with the challenges associated with COVID-19.

The Child Care Links staff stepped up when other organizations were closing. In May 2019, Child Care Links employed a staff of three and coordinated 182 homes. In 2021, a staff of two lead 174 homes.

“The energy, time and commitment required to lead a group of that size with such minimal staff is commendable,” CNW said. “The Child Care Links staff is a shining example of how to lead and persevere through a crisis.”

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