Good Food for Oxford Schools, Oxford, MS
Sunny Young, Project Coordinator, Oxford School District
Good Food for Oxford Schools (GFOS) is the first school food improvement campaign of its kind in the state of Mississippi. What started as a farm to school project has expanded to incorporate comprehensive school food reforms as well as extension programs into the classroom and community. In only seven months the program has reaped success within the Oxford School District: 60 percent of all school menu items are now cooked from scratch; eight student-initiated gardens have been planted and are currently being sustained in Oxford public schools; and Food Clubs have begun at schools to gather feedback and engage students in their own health by learning to cook.
GFOS intends to make local farm product a part of an everyday menu, to put money back into our local farm economy, to boost the reputation of vegetables by making them “cool,” and to gather the Oxford community around this healthy cause. And it’s working. We now have kids begging their parents to put vegetables in the cart at the grocery store, and bullies working alongside the bullied in our gardens. Overall, our goal is to become an example for ALL public schools in Mississippi and to create lasting, habitual change for Mississippi families.
Combining efforts in the cafeteria, classroom, and community, GFOS is transforming the way Mississippians eat, starting with our youngest generations. Our unique approach is broad and all-inclusive including playing in gardens and cooking together in the classroom. We are also breaking down embedded racial and socio-economic barriers, while eating delicious food together. Our annual Gospel Choir Showcase held on the historic Oxford Square served as an African-American hosted event with a central nutrition message held in an otherwise white-dominated space.
All the program’s efforts include constant feedback and contribution from: cafeteria staff, local farmers, town doctors, school families, parents and families, and of course, the students. By working together towards positive change, Good Food for Oxford Schools is making lasting change for community health in the state most often ranked highest in childhood obesity. Our plan is a lofty one, but to see change happen slowly but surely, like 8 year old Samaria reaching for kale chips instead of hot Cheetos, we know we can get there.