Guest Blog: Ryan Betz of Delta Health Alliance


Trigg Elementary Breaks Ground on School Garden

Written by Ryan Betz


On Tuesday, December 8th, Trigg Elementary School and the Delta Health Alliance hosted over 100 adult volunteers, fifth graders, and  school staff to break ground at the Trigg Elementary school garden in Greenville, MS. For two hours the group planted landscaping plants, spread crushed concrete for an outdoor classroom space, planted a small winter vegetable and herb bed, and installed four raised-beds with a river-rock mulching.


DHA has been instrumental in assisting with the planning, development and maintenance of a wide network of School and Community Gardens across rural communities in the Delta.  The DHA Healthy Living project promotes school gardens and offers support to develop garden infrastructure and to facilitate the use of the 5th Grade School Garden Curriculum, which was created by DHA and other partners specifically for Mississippi’s growing season and aligned to state standards. 

Current partners include Trigg Elementary with the Greenville Public School District in Washington County, MS, and the McEvans School with the West Bolivar County Consolidated School District in Bolivar County, MS. Since September 2015 the DHA garden project coordinator has assembled and met with school garden teams to design and install the gardens. In 2016 DHA will provide weekly supervision of garden planting and instruction to over 110 fifth grade students at the two schools during the spring, summer, and fall growing seasons. DHA regularly assess the performance of our programs on the basis of objective data that is produced and recorded as part of these projects, and entered and analyzed using the Efforts to Outcomes software case management system.


Change is in the air ~


It has been an incredible honor to serve as the Program Director of Good Food for Oxford Schools (GFOS) for the past three years.

When moving to Mississippi with Eli (then boyfriend, now husband) in 2012 I was both nervous and optimistic to help start a collaborative project with the Oxford School District. I had learned the school food trade from Chef Ann Cooper, the renegade lunch lady / food service director for the Boulder Valley School District, and was ready to start something in my new home state. I was prepared to bring all the knowledge I had gained from The School Food Project, The Food Family Farming Foundation, and Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools to Mississippi – ready to meet the team and launch our new farm to school project.

What I was not prepared for was how much I would learn. In Mississippi, relationships are gold, and the ones I have developed over the past three years have enriched my life and led to some amazing projects. I am incredibly grateful to the many teachers I have met along the way – the partnerships, friendships, and collaborations I have been a part of have taught me more about this work and life than I could have ever imagined.

All of that being said – it is time for me to move on.

I’m not leaving Mississippi – I’m not even leaving Oxford. Since April of this year I have been working with an incredible school nurse from the Mississippi Delta, Mrs. Dorothy Grady-Scarborough, on launching the Mississippi Farm to School Network with a team of advisors from across the state. Our goal is to build a network and help increase the practice of farm to school across the state.

The lessons I’ve learned with Good Food for Oxford Schools will inform statewide programs and policies. I will stay on to train the new GFOS Program Director and will be nearby to watch this awesomeness grow and grow.

MSF2SN - PantoneTo stay up-to-date with the Mississippi Farm to School Project, please find us on Facebook and sign up for our newsletter

To apply for the GFOS program director position, please visit and follow instructions to find the job ad (which I will also post below).

And stay in touch! My email post GFOS is


To apply for the Program Director job:

Go to and click on “Employment.” You will create a profile and see the job posting. Here’s the details:



Position Overview: The Good Food for Oxford Schools (GFOS) Program Director runs and will continue to develop the Oxford School District’s Farm to School project. Taking lead on all initiatives, supervising a group of service members, interns, and volunteers, and keeping future sustainability plans in mind, the program director is expected to oversee all aspects of GFOS. GFOS is nestled within the Food Service Department of the school District and therefore the Director will report to the Food Services Department Director.

The Program Director will:

  • This persons works directly for the Oxford School District Director of Child Nutrition
  • Develop and maintain partnership with GFOS school projects, gardens and other projects
  • Coordinate local food purchasing from farms by schools and collaborate with Oxford Food Hub project
  • Work with school cafeteria staff to build capacity and share farm to school values: coordinate visiting chefs to build skills and assist with recipe development; work with managers on lunch menus; work with managers to determine what equipment would help support proper prep/storage of fresh produce and healthy scratch cooking; include cafeteria staff.
  • Organize GFOS educational programing and events including harvest of the month, taste tests, farm field trips, in-class workshops, family cooking classes, and fundraisers
  • Design and distribute outreach and publicity materials
  • Collect, analyze, and report data for program evaluation
  • Maintain a database of school, farm and partner contacts, and participate in community coalitions, such as HealthyOxford and Sustainable Oxford
  • Work with the GFOS Advisory Council to keep informed of project progress and activities
  • At times may be required to work outside normal business hours and work extended hours to accomplish requirements of the position.
  • Supervise service members, interns, and volunteers; maintain budget according to OSD principles; participate in planning and other work of the Food Services Department; coordinate grant writing


  • A Bachelor’s degree or equivalent experience
  • Interest in school food, nutrition, child health, local food, agriculture, youth engagement, etc.
  • Comfortable working with and engaging large groups of elementary-aged children
  • Some experience with safe food preparation, handling and serving preferred
  • Excellent, professional written and oral communication skills
  • Comfortable juggling a variety of tasks – organized, and self-motivated
  • Energetic, enthusiastic, and engaging
  • Able to pass criminal background check

Duration/Timing: Flexible schedule, 30 hours / week, year-round. Currently funded for position to last from January 2016 – May 2017 with potential for beyond.

Compensation: This is a contract position for the Oxford School District.

Additional Job Information
Good Food for Oxford Schools (GFOS) is an initiative of the Oxford School District in Oxford, Mississippi to improve cafeteria menus and simultaneously educate students and their families. Overseen by the Child Nutrition Department of the Oxford School System, GFOS leverages “farm to school” principles to bring local farm produce into school cafeterias that serve more cooked-from-scratch and fresh menu items. Working in the classroom with students, and with families after school, GFOS teaches the importance of a nutrient-rich diet that utilizes local foods when available. Good Food for Oxford Schools increases knowledge of delicious, healthy, fresh, local foods and extends this learning from the classroom to the cafeteria to home.

Abby and Donna try Mississippi Eggplant

I witnessed quite the moment at the big Mississippi Farm to School Week celebrations in Tupelo, Mississippi at Parkway Elementary School.

It was a whirlwind event, starting with a ceremony where visitors to the school, including representatives from the Departments of Education and Agriculture, Mississippi Farm Bureau, farmers from across the state, and plenty of media, were serenaded by 400 beautiful elementary voices – a song of farm life. After hearing from the school’s supportive principal speak about the importance of knowing where your food comes from, the district was then presented an incredibly generous donation in the form of a giant check from Toyota – who have a plant in Tupelo and whose staff have helped build some of Tupelo’s school gardens. I even got to say a few words about the Mississippi Farm to School Network and our goals for increasing farm to school across the state.


When the ceremony ended, we headed to the garden. Students explored the space, searching for garden creatures, noting the weather conditions (Mississippi Moment: It was around 70 degrees outside and more than a few students noted it was “cold”), and considering all these observations effect on their plants. The activity, led by FoodCorps Service Member Tylar Setsar, taught more than just the students. A number of times I head teachers remark “well, I didn’t know that!” or “oh, that’s what that’s for!” with regards to soil composition and seasonal growing. My friend April Catchings from the Department of Education joined my group as we tended to young broccoli plants. She had to admit to me after the children left that she had never seen a broccoli plant.

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In an agricultural state, where you don’t have to drive far to end up on farm land, I’m often surprised at how much we have to learn about fruits and vegetables. A survey conducted by the Center for Disease Control in 2013 found that Mississippi children reported eating less than 1 fruit or vegetable a day.


And yet, as we find so often in the school garden, students will try anything! In addition, we’re finding that farm to school programs (like Growing Healthy Waves in Tupelo) that include local foods on school menus, hold “taste testings,” and generally help students make a connection with where their food comes from – are increasing fruit and vegetable consumption by students immensely.


This anecdotal evidence holds a lot of potential for our state – for both the health of our bodies and the health of our local economy.

Now to my favorite moment of the day: Lunch.

Check out my tray:

IMG_1466(I got to sit with farmer Portia Holmes!)

The cafeteria was alive on this special day! Students were treated to an array of local foods and stickers were given out to all by Paige Manning, Chaille Clements, and Susan Head from the Department of Agriculture. Parkway Elementary has a patio with cafe-style picnic tables right outside cafeteria doors. On the patio, students who had accomplished perfect attendance so far this school year were invited to eat lunch with real, live farmers. I overheard conversations like “so, do you have a farm dog?” and “what’s the hardest part about farming?” and “you grew THIS?” What a wonderful way to get to know your food!

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Also joining students on the patio was Ms. Donna, procurement specialist from the Department of Education. I sat down with Ms. Donna to join in on her conversation with Abby, a 1st grader at Parkway. Donna let me know she had just tried eggplant for the first time, Abby convinced her to do it. What a wonderful moment! All lunch, I walked around encouraging students to try the new menu items, and here 8 year old Abby was doing the same job with an adult! Donna loved the eggplant, and even stole some off the plate next to hers she enjoyed it so much.


Such hope. It’s a truly magical program, farm to school, where local foods are celebrated in order to benefit everyone. The mood at Parkway Elementary was joyful and the focus was vegetables. That day, all the children, schools, representatives from Department of Agriculture and Education, all give me such hope for farm to school in Mississippi. Cheers to happy, healthy kids!

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A Paradigm Shift in Mississippi School Cafeterias

Thanks for the awesome article!

Guide to Good Food

By Ligia V. Henriquez for Change Food

Versión en Español

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…

View original post 480 more words

Singing with Spirit, Cooking with Children – The Success of the 3rd Annual Good Food for Oxford Schools Gospel Choir Showcase

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Gospel Choir Showcase Host Mr. Tim and Planner Extraordinaire Kataria


Written by guest blogger, Good Food for Oxford Schools intern Bailey Doctor

It’s a good thing that the morning of April 24th we awoke to sunny skies without a cloud in the sky. With the success of the Double Decker festival the day before, the 3rd annual Gospel Choir Showcase and first-ever Iron Chef Competition that Sunday had big shoes to fill. But fear not, the Gospel singers and Iron Chef teams were ready for the challenge and showed up ready to blow all attendees away. With the weather remaining perfect, the Showcase kicked off right at 3 o’clock with a huge crowd and high spirits.

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Sweet Songs of our First Choir to Perform!

The Iron Chef competition was made up of teams from schools in the district, with PTO members assisting the students. Each team had a $25 budget and had to incorporate a local ingredient into their recipe, which would be judged on healthiness as well as taste. They had 45 minutes to prepare the meal from start to finish. The competition was judged by four of Oxford’s finest: Ms. Claudiatte Goliday and Ms. Christy McAnally two of our wonderful school district cafeteria managers, as well as Wright Thompson, an emmy award winning writer for ESPN, and Executive Chef and owner of Oxford Canteen Corbin Evans were our star Celebrity judges. We also had the world’s best Ward 1 Alderman Jay Hughes as our host. Five teams geared up for the challenge, here’s a little more about each of them:

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Iron Chef Competition Panel of Judges and Host Jay Hughes

The HOT CHOPS: These fierce competitors hailed from Bramlett Elementary. They came ready to rock ‘n roll, preparing a delicious Jambalaya featuring local andouille sausage from Stan’s Meat Market paired with a salad made with the Bramlett garden’s own spring lettuce mix topped with a vinaigrette. Bottom line: these Bramlett all-stars had no problem hangin’ with the big kids and making a mouth-watering meal. Their incorporation of ingredients from the school garden helped them to be awarded “Best Salad”

TEAM AWESOME: This Oxford Elementary team definitely lived up to their name. They were awesome competitors and also awesome at embracing the fun-naturedness of the competition. These kiddos were never short of a smile or a helping-hand. Team Awesome prepared Greek chicken with a citrus feta couscous and a yogurt and fresh fruit parfait for dessert. They utilized their local tomatoes perfectly into the entrée, and created a unique flavor and gourmet appearance. The perfect balance of fresh fruit to yogurt won them the “Best Dessert” award.

THE YUMMIES: Also hailing from Oxford Elementary, this team had their name repeated over and over throughout the competition so they were easy to remember. Every judge couldn’t help but say “YUMMY” with every bite of their chicken and veggie quesadilla and tastefully spiced Spanish rice on the side. The veggies in their entrée were locally sourced and added an undeniably fresh taste found exclusively in local ingredients. Their pairing of complementary vegetables and spices earned them the award for “Best Seasoning”

SIZZLIN’ HEAT: The temperature got a lot hotter when this team showed up to the competition. These Oxford Intermediate kids cooking was not only on fire, they made the other teams sweat throughout the competition. The Sizzlin’ Heat team whipped up a classic Spaghetti and Meatballs dish with an arugula salad on the side, but their taste was anything but ordinary. The meatballs were made with local ground beef from Brown’s meat. They were awarded “Best Use of a Local Ingredient.” Their meatballs were a main aspect of the dish, and having a local ingredient was a main rule of the competition so their award should come as no surprise.

SALMON SISTERS: This Della Davidson team was only comprised of two members but they obviously weren’t afraid to show their stuff. This mother daughter team created a visual masterpiece in their salmon wraps using rosemary and lettuce from the Boys and Girls Club Gardens. Not only were they awarded the “Best Presentation” prize, but they were also our Grand Prize winners. The salmon was cooked to perfection, seasoned just enough and incorporated ingredients that went together impeccably. The Salmon Sisters needed to create a near-perfect meal to come out of this competition as winners and they did just that beating out the second-place team by a close margin of three points. To the victor go the spoils; these girls won a dinner at the Ravine, given graciously by Joel Miller as well as having their recipe entered into Michelle Obama’s “Healthy Lunchtime Challenge” with an opportunity to cook the Salmon Wrap’s for the First Lady at the White House!

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The Salmon Sisters Right After Their Big Win!

While the competition was in full swing, Showcase attendees were graced with the music of several Gospel Choirs and solo singers ranging in age, size, song and style but all sharing one common factor, amazing singing! The Host of the Gospel Choir Showcase was our legendary Tim Frieson who always serves up a smile in the Oxford Middle School cafeteria, and he did more of the same at the Showcase. Along with the tunes and competition, several farmers and vendors set-up shop selling everything from herbs to dog treats. We were also lucky enough to have the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority selling the new stir-fry dish served up in a cafeterias across the district.

GCSC Farmers Market

Farmers Market Vendors at the Gospel Choir Showcase

Between the great singers, sweet mini-chefs, funky vendors and an amazing turnout, the 3rd annual Showcase and 1st annual Iron Chef competition was a huge success. Many thanks to all our volunteers, hosts, judges, vendors and participants for making the event one to remember! See you all next year!

Gospel Choir Showcase Planning Crew

The Gospel Choir Showcase Planning Crew

From the student’s desk… article on GFOS by Oxford High School student

Oxford High School Food Club celebrates the Fall Harvest at Honey Bee Bakery

Oxford High School Food Club celebrates the Fall Harvest at Honey Bee Bakery

The TedXManhattan “Changing the Way We Eat” speech has brought many interviews my way – I am most proud, however, of this awesome article from the Oxford High School paper, The Charger. Read below for sophomore Hannah Allen’s take on my adventure in New York:

Oxford food organization travels to New York City
By Hannah Allen
staff writer

It started with a dream. Just over a year ago, Projects Director Sunny Young was merely sharing her vision with Oxford schools. This month, she got to share it on a national level.

Young’s project “Good Food for Oxford Schools,” or GFOS, is working to improve the quality of food in the cafeteria, thus educating students and parents in healthy eating choices. She goes by the “farm to school” principle which encourages using local farm produce in school cafeterias and serving more cooked-from-scratch, fresh, not overly processed items.

Even though GFOS is just a year old, Young is not holding back from taking big steps forward. On March 1, she went to New York City for TedXManhattan 2014, a conference where people working in the food movement from all over the country come together, give speeches, get ideas and be inspired. Speakers are chosen by TedX and have 12 minutes to “speak their piece” with no interruption for “Q and A,” Young said. A variety of social injustice issues are discussed and each speech is put on YouTube for the whole world to see.

Young was a chosen speaker. She had her 12 minutes—standing in front of some of her food movement “heroes” and sharing about her dream being put to action in Oxford schools.

At the conference, Young says she learned much from the array of issues brought up and through networking with people there.

“I learned a lot about great food work going on around the country,” Young said. “I also saw some neat ways to connect art to the food movement. There was a woman who illustrated what your insides look like when you eat artificial foods versus real foods and a man who created videos where you can watch plants grow from seed to harvest.”

The event’s theme, “Changing the Way We Eat,” is spurring change all over the nation, and Young is taking a large part in it. GFOS won the TedXChallenge for this year—a true honor, according to this organization. Young was thrilled about winning and says it could not have happened without the project’s support from Mississippi and others across the country. “We won by votes from people online and by the TedX panel of judges thinking we are deserving,” Young said. “It is a huge accomplishment, and I love that it brought some really positive attention to Mississippi on a national level.”

TedX’s people are not the only ones who recognize the hard work and passion Young shows on a daily basis. Director of Child Nutrition Richmond Smith is proud of her for achieving so much in a short time.

“Sunny was a gem when I first spoke with her,” Smith said. “She is very energetic about changing the landscape of school nutrition for Oxford. I have enjoyed every minute of working with her.”

School nurse Meg Hayden also applauds Young.

“It’s amazing to work with someone so personally committed to what they are doing,” Hayden said. “She is so fun, passionate and smart. None of this change in Oxford would have happened without her.”

“It’s amazing to work with someone so personally committed to what they are doing,” Hayden said. “She is so fun, passionate and smart. None of this change in Oxford would have happened without her.”

From the teacher’s desk… Words by Mrs. Brown on the Oxford Elementary School Gardens

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By Sandy Brown, 2nd Grade Teacher at Oxford Elementary School

The Good Food for Oxford Schools has been a phenomenal experience for my second grade students at Oxford Elementary. At the beginning of the school year 2013–2014, Sunny Young met with teachers at Oxford Elementary to discuss her vision and goals in order to make this program a success. The teachers and Ms. Young were all in agreement that the core of this program was to introduce new and healthy foods to students. The overall plan was to first educate students on how to actually grow the healthy foods, harvest them, and the best part….CHANGE their eating habits to incorporate fresh and healthy foods to eat on a daily basis. In September, garden plots were built on the perimeter of the Oxford Elementary playground. Later that week, students came to the garden to meet with farmer Willie to plant tomatoes, bell pepper, and basil. Students were educated on how to take care of the vegetables in their garden. The University of Mississippi also sent experts in this field to talk with the children about gardening. Classroom discussions and on site garden discussions were held between the students, local farmers, and university students. In November, OE was part of Food Day, where the school cafeteria served fresh food from local markets. Students enthusiastically ate the fresh food while representatives from the Good Foods for Oxford Schools celebrated the offering of locally grown foods to students and staff at Oxford Elementary. In December, my students participated in a cooking demonstration of fresh kale. The students enjoyed a new good food! The experience has been amazing, and my students positive view on fresh food is on that will last a lifetime!