Students receive free samples at lunch to promote healthier eating


Eve Gershon

A member of Good Food for Oxford Schools fills a cup with a sample of butternut squash soup to serve to students during lunch.

Eve Gershon, Staff Writer

School lunches are not often painted in a good light, but Good Food for Oxford Schools is on a mission to change the image of cafeteria lunch once and for all.

“We are trying to make our menus reflect feedback from parents and students and other people involved with the school,” Mary Elizabeth Smithson, a FoodCorps service member with Good Food for Oxford Schools, said.

Both the Mississippi FoodCorps and Good Food for Oxford Schools are set up to provide healthier food and food education for students and the community. According to the Oxford School District website, the Good Food for Oxford School’s mission is “to leverage ‘farm to school’ principles to bring local farm produce into school cafeterias that strive to serve more cooked-from-scratch and fresh menu items while simultaneously educating students and their families on the importance of eating well.” The team hopes to accomplish this mission through providing students with new, healthier foods that they can try through the form of free samples.

Looking to the community for help, Good Food hopes their new dishes will please everyone while still keeping nutritional value.

“We have gotten some feedback that we want to see fresher, healthier stuff on the menu, more vegetarian options,” Smithson said.

Smithson and her co-workers are hoping to show the kids that healthier foods do not have to be any less enjoyable than unhealthy foods.

“There are some newer items on the menu that have not been there before,” Smithson said. “We’re having these taste tests to try to promote them the day before they’re offered, so that students can at least try it, and then if they like it, they can buy it on the line.”

So far, there have been free samples for butternut squash soup and lentil soup, but more taste tests are being set up for the future with promise of a new spring menu to follow the recently-created winter menu.

“We’ll also do a taste test for a sweet potato black bean stew, a sweet potato black bean burger, and any other items that are just new and fresh that students might not be familiar with,” Smithson said.

Freshman Jenae Jefferson, who tried the butternut squash soup, believes that the program is on the right track in terms of adding new dishes full of flavor and health benefits.

“It was good,” Jefferson said. “It was different, but I enjoy trying new things.”

Jefferson believes a move toward healthier foods in the cafeteria will help the students make healthier choices when choosing what foods to eat.

“A lot of people just eat sweets, and it’s not really good for you,” Jefferson said. “In order to live a nice, healthy lifestyle, you need to eat healthier.”

Senior Ellie Hinton also enjoyed the butternut squash soup and believes that the taste tests provide students with great opportunities to try the foods before picking out their lunches.

“I think that’s awesome for people who eat in the cafeteria, so you know what to look forward to,” Hinton said.