Delta Project Food Initiative Team Leader Ona Balkus’s blog post on the Clinical and Pro Bono Office Blog

Student Voices: From Farm to School in Mississippi

Posted on February 13, 2012

A patch of collard greens grows right on the side of the highway, illustrating that they can grow almost anywhere. Most of the greens served in Mississippi school meals are canned and from outside the state! A patch of collard greens grows right on the side of the highway, illustrating that they can grow almost anywhere. Most of the greens served in Mississippi school meals are canned and from outside the state!

Today’s dispatch comes from Ona Balkus, a second-year joint degree student at Harvard Law School and Harvard School of Public Health. Ona spent her winter term working with the Mississippi Food Policy Council as part of the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic. She is also a member of the student practice organization the Mississippi Delta Projectand is a student fellow for the Law and Social Change Program of Study. She will be participating in the Food Law and Policy Clinic again for the spring term.

It’s 5:30pm on a Friday and I’m sitting at a small dining room table with six eighth grade girls, a nun, and my friend whom I’m traveling with. The drive into the town where these girls have grown up and live was a bit of a shock, with mostly boarded up stores on the main street, stray dogs on the side of the road, and miles of corn and cotton fields around the small Delta town.

Around the table, we are engaged in serious conversation. “I only like string beans!” “The lunch lady spit in my potatoes today, I swear!” We’re talking about improving school foods, a topic that preoccupies our country and affects these girls every day. The girls like some vegetables, but love fried chicken and cupcakes, and are excited to start a community garden with Sister Kay (the nun who leads this mentorship group) next spring. After talking for an hour about food, cooking, and what they want to be when they grow up (doctors, lawyers, and a cosmetologist), we say our goodbyes and thank them for hosting us at their weekly meeting.

While my winter term assignment is focused on interviewing and learning from school food service staff, farmers, and other food advocates in Mississippi, meeting these girls is just as important for the success of this project. Through the Food Law and Policy Clinic and the Mississippi Delta Project, I’m working to help build a Farm to School movement in Mississippi . . .

To read the rest of the blog post, click here.

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