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Let's Eat Healthy Recognizes California Champions

By: Meggan Rush

  • Monday, May 23, 2022
  • 3 Minute Read   

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — May 23, 2022 — In support of its cause to elevate the health of children and families through the pursuit of lifelong healthy eating habits, the Let’s Eat Healthy initiative is honoring six California change-makers through the Let’s Eat Healthy Leadership Awards. 

The awards recognition program is part of the Let’s Eat Healthy initiative—launched by Dairy Council of California—which brings together educators, health professionals and community leaders to coordinate, collaborate and co-create opportunities to champion community health.

Now in its third year, the awards program is designed to recognize those who educate, inspire and empower children, families and communities to develop lifelong, healthy eating habits. In years past, classroom educators received this recognition award. This year, the awards program expanded to include individuals and organizations that improve nutrition education and access to nutritious foods—a charge central to both Dairy Council of California and the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Farm to School program.

“The Let’s Eat Healthy initiative is a powerful example of the type of collaboration and partnerships that are needed to support healthy families and communities,” said Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture Karen Ross. “This year’s award recipients are making a difference by expanding nutrition education and farm to school programming, advocating for sustainable food systems and supporting equitable access to nutritious foods.”

The 2022 Let’s Eat Healthy Leadership Award winners are: 

  • CalFresh Healthy Living, University of California. CalFresh Healthy Living is a statewide organization based out of the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences that advances nutrition education in schools and communities. Working with families and individuals who are eligible for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education, the organization teaches good nutrition, how to make food dollars stretch further and how to be physically active at any age. The organization’s collaborative approach to policy, systems and environmental change strategies embodies the spirit of the Let’s Eat Healthy initiative and improves healthy food access and nutrition education in schools, creating long-lasting community change. 
  • ImagineU Children’s Museum. ImagineU is a nonprofit, hands-on learning center in Visalia that serves the children of the community, seeing approximately 70,000 guests a year. A dairy exhibit at the museum, created in collaboration with California Dairies Inc., California Milk Advisory Board and Dairy Council of California, highlights dairy's important role in healthy eating patterns and sustainable agriculture. The exhibit, which launched in fall 2021, will be on display for five years. This multi-organization collaboration aims to show the next generation of Californians the importance of dairy foods for health and sustainability, and dairy’s role as part of California's robust agricultural industry. 
  • Linda Allen, Reading Specialist and Health and Wellness Coordinator, Sundale Elementary School. Linda, a Exeter resident whose 29-year education career began with teaching 5th grade, and nutrition education has always been a vital component of her career. She began her current role seven years ago when administrators asked her to lead the district’s Nutrition and Wellness Program. Linda established the Sundale School Wellness Committee, helping the school become the first to pilot the Let’s Eat Healthy nutrition curriculum, online assessments and used nutrition resources to support teachers, parent groups and afterschool and physical education programs. Because of her efforts, students and parents are empowered to adopt healthy eating patterns. 
  • Heather Cruz, Physical Education, Health and Wellness Coordinator. Heather, a Chula Vista resident, has worked in the Chula Vista Elementary School District for the past six years where she leads the district’s wellness committee. With the support of this committee, she has implemented programs that improve nutrition access, resources and support for the well-being of students, staff and the community. Heather developed a Site Wellness Leads program and initiated community partnerships. She received the San Diego County Office of Education’s comprehensive health education grant to write lessons for teachers. Her passion has led her to focus her efforts on both students and employees. 
  • Niaomi Hrepich, Registered Dietitian, WIC and CalFresh Healthy Living Program Director, Monterey County Public Health Department. Niaomi, a Salinas resident, encourages her community to be healthy by improving diet quality and being active daily. She convenes and promotes consistent evidence-based nutrition and wellness messaging across the county. Through her efforts, the Let’s Eat Healthy nutrition curriculum reaches students in over 15 elementary schools in Monterey County. Niaomi hosts the Nutrition and Fitness Collaborative of the Central Coast, a coalition with over 40 member agencies, working collectively to promote and advocate for policies and changes that foster healthy lifestyles to prevent obesity and related chronic diseases, especially for low-income families. 
  • Dawn Soto, Senior Food Service Training Specialist, Los Angeles Unified School District Food Services Division. Dawn, a Pico Rivera resident, develops and oversees training curriculums for over 3,500 district employees, students and parents on all subjects pertaining to school food programs, operations, nutrition education and professional development that align with professional standards requirements. Her services extend to technical assistance on education materials for no-cost services that are a welcome resource for schools with limited funds. Dawn has collaborated with Dairy Council of California in numerous ways to spread awareness on nutrition within the education system. 

“Since its inception more than a century ago, Dairy Council of California has served communities with a belief that all children and families deserve equitable access to healthy, culturally diverse foods and nutrition education,” said Tammy Anderson-Wise, CEO of Dairy Council of California. “The Let’s Eat Healthy Leadership Awards recognize outstanding individuals and organizations in California who empower healthier children, families and communities through nutrition. I applaud and thank this year’s award winners. I believe the stories of the Let’s Eat Healthy nutrition champions will inspire others to take action to improve community health through nutrition.”

Learn more about this year’s Let’s Eat Healthy leaders, the recognition program and how to access free nutrition programs and resources by visiting HealthyEating.org/Award


About Dairy Council of California
For over a century, Dairy Council of California has empowered stakeholders, including educators, health professionals and community leaders, to elevate the health of children and families through the pursuit of lifelong healthy eating habits. Funded by California’s dairy farm families and local milk processors and under the guidance of California Department of Food and Agriculture, Dairy Council of California’s free science-based nutrition education resources, Mobile Dairy Classroom assemblies, training programs and online resources educate millions of students and families in California and throughout the United States. Learn more at HealthyEating.org.


Meggan Rush

Meggan Rush

Communications Manager Meggan brings professional expertise in leading successful communications for media, public relations and marketing programs.