Meet This Year's Summer Meals Heroes

Summer can be the hungriest time of year for kids who rely on school meals. But all across the country there are amazing people feeding kids at libraries, playgrounds and swimming pools.

We can't recognize every single one of them, but we've picked five extraordinary people as this year's Summer Meals Hero award winners.

Denise Turney

Denise Turney is the child nutrition director at the Ozark Mountain School District in Arkansas. 
Every summer, Denise volunteers her time to run the summer meals program at the local elementary school in St. Joe, a small, rural community where 83% of students qualify for free and reduced priced meals.

"Denise’s program is an oasis for the kids here,” said Shirley Clark from the Food Bank of Central Arkansas. "She provides a free meal and fun activities during the tough summer months."

Susan Levy

Susan Levy has been a longtime advocate for summer meals and a champion for the urban Native American population in Phoenix, Arizona. Working for NATIVE HEALTH, a community health center that helps run six summer meals sites across Phoenix, she’s ensures families know where to find a healthy meal in the summertime.

In fact, whenever NATIVE HEALTH opens a new clinic, Susan’s first call is to the local food bank to make sure a free summer meals program is in place.

Jodi Risse

When Jodi Risse, food & nutrition services director for Anne Arundel County Schools in Maryland, realized there was no farmers’ market in a low-income neighborhood, she created one at a summer meal site. Each week, a local farmer sells fresh produce at the market, which accepts SNAP benefits and sends bags of fruits and vegetables home with families. 

“Jodi is always finding new ways to bring partners into her summer meals programs and reach more kids,” said Kara Panowitz of No Kid Hungry Maryland.

Ryan Hurley

Ryan Hurley wanted to make summer meals fun for kids in Rhode Island's Central Falls School District, so he decided to bring them sights and smells of a lively kitchen. As director of dining services for Chartwells, he helped develop a “traveling chef” summer program; twice a week, chefs visit local parks and cook a hot lunch right in front of the kids.

The excitement of having a chef prepare the meals on-site has been a big draw, and everything is prepared from scratch using local ingredients. 

Lynne Mayer

Lynne Mayer has been fiercely dedicated to ending summer hunger since she came on ten years ago as the summer meals supervisor for the Kent School District near Seattle. After seeing how many kids played every day at a local park in the summer, Lynne worked with the city to launch a summer meals program – a program she's expanded to include games and other activities.

“Lynne is passionate about serving her community and doesn't say no when a need is identified,” said Sara Seelmeyer of United Way of King County

Visit our Summer Meals Heroes Hall of Fame to see the amazing people feeding hungry kids in the summer in your community.