OXFORD, Miss. – Students and teachers at Della Davidson Elementary School celebrated the grand opening of their new school garden Wednesday (Oct. 1) afternoon.
The garden began in March with financing from the University of Mississippi Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management through a W.K. Kellogg grant as part of the “Eating Good … and Moving Like We Should” program. Over the last six years, the $275,000 grant has placed gardens in 15 schools across the Mississippi Delta and north Mississippi region.
The program started in 2008 as a way to battle the statewide problem of childhood obesity, which has dropped from 43 percent to 41 percent, said Kathy Knight, UM associate professor of nutrition and hospitality management.
However, that number is still too high, said Knight, noting that the gardens and nutrition education classes give students information about healthy options.
“School gardens make a difference,” she said. “They provide physical activity and help students learn to respect the environment, hopefully inspiring a healthy future.”
Two of those gardens are in the Oxford School District as a result of the collaboration between the university and the Good Food for Oxford Schools program. Blueberries, raspberries, figs, spinach, spicy mustard, stevia and green onions are just a few of the foods growing in the garden at Della Davidson.
“Good Food for Oxford Schools works in the cafeteria, classroom and community,” program coordinator Sunny Young said. “The kids get to experience the whole process in an effort to get them to eat better.”
Third- and fourth-grade students at Della Davidson created the lush garden themselves. Fourth-grade teacher Laurie Beth Ellis said her students have planted and maintained the garden since it began.
Ellis uses the garden to teach the history of agriculture, the science of gardening and vocabulary words associated with the process. Students harvested the garden in May and were excited to taste what they grew, she said.
“Without the university grant, we would literally still have grass here,” Ellis said. “The kids did an amazing job learning about the garden and actually getting their hands dirty to get everything done. Without these kids’ good attitudes and hard work, nothing would have been accomplished.”