By Ligia V. Henriquez for Change Food
In her TEDxManhattan talk Good Food Can Change Everything, Sunny Young, winner of the 2014 TEDxManhattan Challenge, described the Good Food for Oxford Schools (GFOS) farm to school program in Mississippi. Today, we are happy to share an exciting update on her work!
Through GFOS in the Oxford School District in Oxford, Mississippi, Sunny helped engage and empower school staff, students, and their families to change the way they think of and eat food.
When she gave her talk in March 2014, GFOS had helped transform the food served in their school cafeterias by:
- Increasing the percentage of food made from scratch served in school meals from 30% to 75% within one year
- Increasing servings of fresh foods from local producers
- Eliminating fryers from school cafeterias
- Introducing salad bars in all the District’s schools
- Bringing farmers and chefs to schools to teach children about good food
A mother reported that her daughter, Samaria (see photo 1), who previously refused to try fruits or vegetables, was now pestering her for fruits, rather than for highly processed products! (Hint: watch related TEDxManhattan talk: Marketing Food to Children, were Anna Lappé explains “pester power”).
The statistics that Sunny shared during her talk show the need for a paradigm shift in the diets of Mississippi children:
- Mississippi is the state with the highest obesity rates in the country
- 40% of Mississippi children eat less than 1 fruit or vegetable on a daily basis
- 40% of Mississippi children are overweight/ obese
- 74% of parents are not worried about their children’s weight
As she explained, farm to school efforts are important because in the Oxford School District alone, academic performance and overall well-being have declined in children who are overweight, malnourished, and/or suffering from diet-related diseases. Students as young as five have been diagnosed with Type II Diabetes, a disease formerly only identified in adults.[i]