By Lynda Ratliff, Program Committee
The Mississippi Farm to School Network is a statewide collaborative with the goal of increasing the practice of local procurement in schools, good food education, and prevalence of school gardens in Mississippi. The Network seeks to strengthen the local agricultural economy and educate Mississippians on the importance of eating locally-grown, nutritionally-dense foods. By gathering a diverse community of farm to school advocates, the network strives to reach all students and their families. Work includes providing networking opportunities to school districts, farmers, and farm to school advocates, technical assistance, sub-granting for school gardens, and programming directed at expanding farm to school efforts.
The Mississippi Farm to School Institute will be held in Oxford, Mississippi on July 7-9 at the Farmstead at Woodson Ridge. School nutrition personnel, teachers, farmers, and administrators from three Mississippi school districts; Sunflower County Consolidated School District, Biloxi School District, and Jackson Public Schools are slated to attend this inaugural event. The Institute will inspire the district teams to utilize local food in school meals and educate students on the importance of a good diet. Farm to school programming connects classrooms, cafeterias, and communities - helping children develop healthy relationships with food and enriching the overall educational experience for all while boosting local economies. Sunny Baker and Dorothy Grady-Scarbrough, Co-Directors of the Mississippi Farm to School Network, are excited about this first annual event. According to Dorothy Grady-Scarbrough, “The glory of this Institute is like gardening: we will be putting minds together to plant seeds. To nurture the Institute is to feed not just the body, but the soul of our children to become healthier adults.”
The goal is to make this event full of fun in addition to hard work - inspiring teams to sustain their farm to school efforts and engage their whole communities. "The Institute is really going to level up our farm to school efforts in Mississippi. I'm thrilled with the teams that the school districts have put together this year and cannot wait to see how many locally grown foods get added to school menus and gardens dug. It's an honor to get to be a part of it all.” states Sunny Baker. Part of the training will include a visit to the Oxford School District, showcasing Good Foods for Oxford Schools as a model farm to school program. Participating school districts will hear from a panel of school district leaders and partners to learn from their farm to school success. This event will showcase the City of Oxford, entertaining participant guests with the fun Oxford has to offer in addition to highlighting the town’s model farm to school efforts. Participating school districts will hear from a panel of school district leaders and partners to learn from their farm to school success. Guests will be given the proper tour of Oxford while riding on Double Decker buses and end with dining on the square.
Each year the Institute will grow, and 2020 is slated to open up applications to the rest of the state and select five school districts. The event is partially grant funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. For more information about this event, please contact Sunny Baker, Co-Director of the Mississippi Farm to School Network at 636-675-0503 or firstname.lastname@example.org.