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California Summer Sunshine Award Recipients

An annual listing of the California Summer Sunshine Award winners.

Summer Sunshine Awards

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Western Region Office (WRO) uses the Summer Sunshine Awards to acknowledge the outstanding achievements and hard work of summer meals program operators in the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and the Seamless Summer Option (SSO) throughout the Western Region states. The awards:

  • Encourage and acknowledge innovation and recognize sponsors who serve communities that are hard to reach

  • Provide recognition to sponsors who have increased the number of summer meals served at their site

  • Provide recognition to sponsors who work closely with organizations to strengthen the summer meals programs in local communities

Congratulations to all the California Summer Sunshine award recipients!

2018 Winners

The 2018 review panel included representatives from the WRO. They reviewed nominations in five categories:

  • Bringing the Farm to Summer Meals
  • Excellence in Community Partnerships
  • Providing Enrichment Activities
  • Raising Community Awareness
  • Reaching Rural, Tribal, and/or Underserved Communities

The review panel awarded eight California Summer Meal sponsors for their outstanding efforts in the following categories:

Bringing the Farm to Summer Meals
  • Pittsburg Unified School District (PUSD)
    The PUSD brought the farm to their summer meals by implementing local procurement strategies to increase the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables for the children in their community. Their efforts included supporting a full-time Garden Supervisor who maintained twelve functional school gardens, offering a Garden Market for parents and community members to purchase fresh produce, and partnering with the local food bank. In doing so they provided opportunities to connect children and their families to where and how their food is produced.

  • Redlands Unified School District (RUSD)
    The RUSD worked hard this past summer to bring the farm to their summer meal programs. They provided daily activities and health and wellness education to all of their summer sites. With the help of summer graduate interns, they introduced unfamiliar fruits to children attending their sites and administered surveys to participating children in order to tailor the fruits and vegetables offered at their sites to their preferences. In addition, their fruit and vegetable procurement from Old Grove Orange, a local farm, allowed them to create high-quality summer meals containing fresh fruits and vegetables.
Excellence in Community Partnerships
  • Ontario-Montclair School District (OMSD)
    In the summer of 2018, the OMSD collaborated with the city of Ontario and the Hope Through Housing Foundation to increase meal sites at parks and the city’s public library. Their focus on collaboration and meeting children where they are located, while offering education and recreational programs to students, helped to reduce food insecurity in the summer months. By encouraging parents and families to bring their children, siblings, and friends to receive free breakfasts and lunches, the OMSD served 2,000 meals more than the previous summer.
Providing Enrichment Activities
  • Rialto Unified School District
    The Rialto Unified School District made excellent use of their community partnerships to provide daily engaging enrichment activities at their summer meal sites. They did so by hosting “Farmer Bob” and mini farmers markets, and providing food and nutrition education. Enrichment activities were aligned with their district goals to increase the literacy of students. To help achieve this goal, the Rialto Unified School District donated 375 books each to two of their elementary school sites and also hosted literacy activities with their local library.

  • Eureka City Schools
    Nutrition education and physical activity were the name of the game for Eureka City Schools this summer. They connected with community partners to offer new meal services for community programs for children and to offer weekly drawings for school supplies and fun family activities at their sites. They largely focused their efforts on high poverty area sites to provide safe family activities which included children’s yoga, nutrition education centered coloring activities, and movies at their summer meal sites.

  • Honorable Mention: Victor Valley Union High School District (VVUHSD)
    VVUHSD utilized an enrichment activity calendar to market their summer meal programs. This summer they were able to provide these by integrating community-building through social media advertising, providing nutrition education, partnering with their library, providing backpack kits, and utilizing volunteers to engage children with daily enrichment activities.
Raising Community Awareness
  • Marysville Joint Unified School District (MJUSD)
    The MJUSD used a $25,000 Summer Expansion grant to create effective branding and marketing for their summer meal programs. Their intent was to combine aggressive advertising with consistent designs for easy identification of their program. Their advertising included radio public service announcements, signage for buses and bus stops, a booth at the local flea market, and A-frame posters to identify their sites. They also regularly visited food bank locations and passed out flyers for their sites in order to reach high need households. Their efforts considerably increased their meals served. The number of meals served increased by 1,497 over the previous summer, exceeding all of their goals and expectations. Ultimately, they attribute this summer’s success to breaking down negative barriers of perception that prevented some families in the past from participating in summer meal programs.

  • Honorable Mention: Del Norte Unified School District (DNUSD)
    DNUSD partnered with their local branch of Housing and Urban Development to identify low-income housing sites that would be interested in distributing Seamless Summer meals to increase their visibility and program participation. Through these and other conventional marketing efforts, they increased their service sites by three and served almost 14,000 more meals than last year.
2017 Winners

The 2017 review panel included representatives from the WRO as well as the Food & Research Action Center, Share our Strength, Feeding America, and the USDA Food Nutrition Service Office of Community Food Systems. The group reviewed nominations in five categories:

  • Reaching Rural, Tribal, and/or Underserved Communities
  • Innovative and Impactful Enrichment Activities
  • Excellence in Community Partnerships
  • Bringing the Farm to Summer Meals
  • Raising Community Awareness

The review panel awarded eight California Summer Meal sponsors for their outstanding efforts in the following categories:

Reaching Rural, Tribal, and/or Underserved Communities
  • Del Norte County Unified School District (DNCUSD)
    The DNCUSD worked to expand their Seamless Summer Option program on county tribal lands. To expand access for the Yurok Tribe, they created two meals sites on Yurok land. The two sites were very successful, serving 6,593 more meals over the previous summer. To expand access for the Tolowa Dee-ni' Nation, they moved their main meal site from an office setting to a larger hall, and served 438 more meals than the previous summer.

  • San Jacinto Unified School District (SJUSD)
    The SJUSD expanded the access to summer meals for children in under-served areas this past summer by adding an additional community meal site at Hyatt Elementary. This particular area is comprised of a vulnerable population which includes the economically disadvantaged, racial and ethnic minorities, the uninsured, and low-income children. The impact from advanced advertising of their summer meals, expanded access to summer meals, and serving breakfast for the first time this summer, resulted in providing an additional 6,660 meals compared to last summer.
Providing Enrichment Activities
  • Hesperia Unified School District (HUSD)
    The HUSD started a partnership with the City of Hesperia Recreation and Park District to use one of their parks as a meal site. They also reached out to local businesses and radio stations to help with advertising. HUSD received donations from a local company which paid for the radio station to come out and do a remote show at the park. They offered free daily activities for the children including yoga, karate, a farmers market, painting, and gardening. HUSD was able to increase their number of meals served by over 2,000 from the previous year.

  • Manteca Unified School District (MUSD)
    Conducting two events daily, the MUSD barbeque and activity route provided 66 events over the summer at 60 summer meals site locations. The district hired 5 interns who traveled with the barbeque and activity program. The interns were responsible for creating and organizing physical and educational events as well as ensuring participant safety. At the parks, interns engaged the children in organized activities such as relay races, obstacle courses, hula hoops, jump rope, veggie tag, cooking demonstrations and lessons, and karaoke.

  • Riverside Unified School District
    Through the collaborative use of staffing and material resources, the City of Riverside Summer Meal Workgroup exceeded expectations in providing educational enrichment at summer meal sites. The Workgroup was able to reach over 1,000 children and adults during summer meals enrichment activities. Over the course of 11 weeks Workgroup members provided nutrition and physical activity enrichment activities at 14 different locations for a total of 56 activity sessions throughout the City of Riverside. The activities and games included obstacle courses, relay races, Harvest of the Month nutrition education, and Rethink Your Drink.
Excellence in Community Partnerships
  • YMCA of Superior California Summer Camp Collaborations (YMCASCC)
    The YMCASCC has developed a number of partnerships to help feed more children every summer. Those partnerships include St. John's Program for Real Change, a nonprofit organization that supports women and their children coming from abusive households. The YMCA provides a free summer-long day camp, swimming lessons, and meals for the children of St. John’s. The California Summer Meal Coalition is a statewide network united to combat hunger and obesity by helping California’s children access free and healthy meals through the USDA’s summer nutrition programs. La Familia Counseling Center provides counseling and education services to the local community and the YMCA and La Familia combined to offer a summer program for children at Maple School to provide lunches and physical activities to the children. The YMCA also partnered with the Yolo County Library and the Elk Grove Unified School District to ensure that summer meals were provided to the children.
Raising Community Awareness
  • Natomas Unified School District
    Natomas USD was chosen by the Center for Ecoliteracy (CEL) to be a summer meals leading district and was awarded a grant to fund marketing and promotions of summer meals sites. During the summer, radio commercials, print ads, and banners on buses and shelters advertised the summer meals program. The district also created summer meals flyers in English and Spanish. Flyers were distributed to school locations, local community centers, and libraries to increase awareness of the summer program. They also posted frequently on social media to ensure that community members knew about special summer feeding events and updates. Two of their staff were on the local Spanish news station to inform families about the summer feeding program. Their average meals served increased by over 500 meals per week from the previous summer.

  • Sacramento Summer Meals Collaborative
    The Sacramento Summer Meals Collaborative developed a marketing and outreach toolkit designed to help summer meal sponsors, meal sites, and community advocates promote the summer meals program. The Sacramento Summer Lunchbox toolkit includes sample social media posts and images, website headers, Facebook profile pictures and cover photos, flyers in seven languages (generic and editable site specific flyers), sample newsletter articles, PSA scripts, and general marketing strategies. The Collaborative also agreed to promote the No Kid Hungry text campaign (text FOOD to 877-877) and the local 2-1-1 helpline to assist families in locating a summer meal site close to them. In 2017 the Collaborative had three AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate members who served as Community Outreach Specialists. They conducted grassroots outreach in local communities to promote the summer meals program, staffed tables at community events, placed flyers in apartment complexes and local businesses, delivered presentations at community meetings, and employed a variety of other strategies to help support awareness in the community.
2016 Winners

Nominations for summer meal program operators that promote nutritious eating habits for children in the western states were reviewed by the USDA/WRO for the following categories:

  • Program Expansion in Local Communities
  • Successful Community Partnerships
  • Reaching Rural and Underserved Communities
  • Strategies to Promote Nutrition and Wellness

The WRO awarded two California-based organizations the Western Region Summer Sunshine Award for efforts to provide enrichment activities.

The winners included:

  • Manteca Unified School District, Nutrition Education
    Key Achievements: using innovative partnerships and strategies to offer a barbeque series of events that integrated physical activities, cooking demonstrations, and fresh, local produce into the summer meal program. Due to the success and increase in meal participation at the daily barbeques, additional barbeque sites and enrichment activities are planned for the 2017 Seamless Summer Option.

  • San Benito Health Foundation
    Key Achievements: using innovative partnerships and strategies to couple the health services provided to county residents with the children’s summer lunch series. By integrating healthcare with nutritional education, physical activities, and the serving of fresh, local produce, the San Benito Health Foundation provided invaluable health care services to county residents. Meals were provided whenever the clinic was open, including Saturdays. The strategy increased the amount of meals served for the summer. Most children became regular attendees for a period of several weeks.
2015 Winners

In 2015 the WRO awarded six California-based organizations the Western Region Summer Sunshine Award for efforts to end hunger and improve nutrition in California.

The winners included:

  • The California Summer Meal Coalition, recognized for Outstanding Partners
    Key achievements: collaborating with the California Department of Education, the California Library Association, and the California State Library to establish Lunch at the Library in 99 libraries (up from 64 libraries in 2014), serving nearly 100,000 meals.

  • Conejo Valley Unified School District, recognized for Bringing the Farm to Summer Meals
    Key achievements: integrating local foods into the summer meals program and promoting healthy eating through nutrition education, taste testing, and cooking demonstrations. The Conejo Valley Unified School District sourced all their produce from local farmers while serving two schools and 10 housing sites.

  • Lakeside Union School District, recognized for Strategies to Promote Meal Quality, Nutrition Education, and Wellness
    Key achievements: serving high-quality, kid-friendly menu items and involving parents to help increase participation in summer meals. The school district collaborated with local partners to offer family barbecues, salad bars, and kid-friendly breakfast offerings.

  • Pasadena Unified School District, recognized for Successful and Innovative Community Partnerships
    Key achievements: working with community partners to tailor program strategies in menu planning and marketing efforts. Pasadena Unified School District’s Fuel Up for Summer Fun program increased meal participation by 26 percent from the previous year.

  • Riverside Unified School District, recognized for Strategies to Promote Meal Quality, Nutrition Education, and Wellness
    Key achievements: incorporating fresh local produce into summer meals and offering enrichment activities for children. The district networked with local partners to implement the promotion of healthy food, food tastings, and physical activities at their meal sites.

  • West Contra Costa Unified School District, recognized for Successful and Innovative Community Partnerships
    Key achievements: partnering with Contra Costa Food Bank to distribute fresh produce to needy families at more than 10 summer meal sites. West Contra Costa Unified School District served 323,577 nutritious summer meals and snacks at 71 sites in low-income neighborhoods.
2014 Winners

In 2014 the WRO awarded two California-based organizations the Western Region Summer Sunshine Award for efforts to end hunger and improve nutrition in California.

The winners included:

  • The Fresno County Economic Opportunities Commission (EOC), recognized for Reaching Rural and Underserved Communities
    Key achievements: by partnering with USDA Rural Development the Fresno EOC served summer meals in seven new rural communities in Fresno County.

  • Riverside Unified School District Nutrition Services, recognized for Strategies to Promote Nutrition and Wellness
    Key achievements: creating innovative partnerships and strategies such as integrating yoga, nutrition education, and fresh local produce into the summer meals program.

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Questions:   Summer Meals Unit | | 916-324-6153
Last Reviewed: Monday, June 28, 2021
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