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USDA honors St. Luke’s Community Health for Summer Meals Program for schoolchildren


St. Luke’s University Health Network’s Department of Community Health has earned the 2023 Gold-Level Turnip the Beet Award – the highest level possible – for its Summer Meals program, which provides nutritious, high-quality meals to local schoolchildren in need in the Allentown and Quakertown school districts during the summer months.

Presented by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (USDA FNS), the Turnip the Beet Award recognizes outstanding summer meal program sponsors throughout the United States each year. Summer meals are critical in the lives of millions of our nation’s youth, whose risk for food insecurity increases during the summer months when they no longer have access to the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program.

USDA FNS recognized 140 summer meal sponsors throughout the country with Turnip the Beet awards for excellence in 2023. Among the winners, 55 sponsors qualified for a gold award. The St. Luke’s Summer Meals program is one of only two award recipients – and the only health system honored – in Pennsylvania.

The St. Luke’s Summer Meals program was recognized for demonstrating a commitment to serving fresh produce to families, which is provided by St. Luke’s Rodale Institute Organic Farm. In addition to produce from the farm being used in their lunches, families also have the opportunity to take home bags of fresh produce, along with recipes and meal preparation ideas, through the St. Luke’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.

The St. Luke’s Summer Meals program was launched in response to the Network’s 2019 Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA). Whitney Szmodis,

St. Luke’s Department of Community Health partners with Catholic Charities in Allentown and Free Fall in Quakertown to provide meals outside the hospital to make the summer meals program more accessible, while also allowing program participants to feel more comfortable.

St. Luke’s Summer Meals program is available for anyone ages 18 and younger.St. Luke’s hosts the program at two locations:

H.I.S Service Center (next to Central Catholic High School) at 317 N. 4th Street in Allentown; and Free Fall Action Sports at 670 S. Main Street in Quakertown.

As partners, Catholic Charities and Free Fall help St. Luke’s Department of Community Health organize the program and provide staff and locations. In addition, St. Luke’s Summer Meals receives donor support from West Side Hammer Electric, a division of Hatzel & Buehler, for the Allentown program and from Penn Community Bank for the Quakertown program.

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