Success Stories

Header Image: 
A woman, boy, and girl make a healthy dinner of ground beef, green beans, and mashed potatoes.

Success Stories

Living the HappyHealthy way can change your life! So many Mississippians are enjoying the benefits of eating more fresh fruits and vegetables. We love to tell their HappyHealthy stories so you can learn how to keep your family healthy and feeling good.


Header Image: 
A woman and three children preparing a healthy meal consisting of ground beef, mashed potatoes, and green salad.


Jones County, Mississippi

Alberta shopping in the produce section at the grocery store.

I always thought eating healthy and exercising were overrated. I was an athlete in college, but, even then, I didn’t eat healthy.

Then, as an adult, I had a business to run, and I was a single mom with five active children. So I never had much time to spend in the kitchen. I rushed through the grocery store, grabbing quick meals and snacks that I knew my kids would like. 

Before we took Ms. Knight’s classes, we used to not notice the things we ate. We used to buy a lot of prepackaged and ready-to-heat frozen foods. And my children really didn’t like vegetables. They would say, “Mom, I don’t want these vegetables.”

With help from Ms. Knight and Ms. Evers, my whole family’s attitude changed.

Now we buy a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables and check the nutrition labels on products. We watch our sodium intake, and we try to monitor the amount of calories and cholesterol that are in our foods.

And the food tastes so much better. When we were shopping, we bought some fresh corn, and my kids could tell the difference in processed corn and fresh corn. They are really wanting to eat things that I never thought they would ever eat before.

Sometimes, I blend some of the vegetables in with other foods so they are more appetizing for my children. I sometimes take them to the grocery store and let them pick the fruits and vegetables they want. I get them in the kitchen and let them help. We make it fun. If they prepare it, they will eat it.

In the classes, I also learned to comparison-shop. I have saved a lot of money, because now, when I look at the labels, I look at the ounces and compare them. Now, instead of just grabbing something off the shelf, I know I can get more for my money by looking at the labels. I also look at the labels to make sure we are getting things that have less sodium, things that are under 20 percent of daily value. It takes me a little bit longer now to shop, because I want to make sure I do pick the right foods and I’m not just rushing.

The classes and eating together and exercising together has helped me and my family be closer. I am now kind of like their friend, and not just mama all the time, so it has changed that in our lives.

I was an athlete myself in college, and now I consider myself their personal trainer. Now, we get out and jog around about a mile a day, and we play basketball in the evening time when they get out of school. I kind of give them a break over the weekend. We do a lot of fun activities in that aspect. We do a lot of sports. We play baseball. We play tennis. It has brought me back to my college years, so I enjoy it. 

We really enjoy that time together. The whole family feels better, too. I used to feel sluggish, but now I have the energy I need to get through the day. And I’ve seen that in my kids.

What do you hope your children learn from this?

My goal is to teach my children how to live a healthy lifestyle. I want this learning experience to continue through future generations of our family. My children have learned a way of life they can instill in their children.


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A family prepares a healthy dinner, green salad, green beans, ground beef and mashed potatoes, together.


Simpson County, Mississippi

A woman sitting at a table with a bag of fresh fruits and vegetables.

It all began a couple of years ago. Both my children were in elementary school, and Ms. Lockhart was their health teacher. And my son, Austin, came home, and at supper one night, he told me, “Mama, I want you to get healthy!”

So I heard him out, and he was telling me what Ms. Lockhart said. But he continued, and my daughter, Rayne, did, too. Every time they would go to her class, they would come home and say, “Ms. Lockhart said, Ms. Lockhart said.” And so I told them, “If I’m going to get healthy, then the whole family has to get healthy. It has to be a lifestyle change.”

And we just, as a family, made some changes. One of them was taking snack cakes out of the house. It thought that would deter my children from talking about it again, but it didn’t. They said that was good with them! We just continue with the plan.

My children were really the instigators. Each week, they would come home and tell me something new, like, “Mama, we need to go walking more.” So we started walking. And then they would come home and tell me about portion control. So we would cut down on our portions.

We have incorporated it as a lifestyle, instead of just a diet.

As soon as I get off work, when I walk in the door, we sit down as a family to eat. So I prepare meals within 30 to 45 minutes. And, because of the portion control and the change to healthier foods, it became easier. It’s easier and faster to fix a salad than to fix a big lasagna, for example.

With the lessons from Ms. Lockhart and the persistence and encouragement of my children, I have lost 65 pounds, and I quit smoking.

I can tell the difference in my work. I can tell it in my daily activities. I can tell when I go to the ballgame with my kids. I’m not the tired mom sitting on the bleachers, I’m on the sidelines cheering.

We have healthy family time, too. We definitely sit down every night, as a family, to eat. But also during that walk we have, after our meal, we get to talk and just share things that usually we wouldn’t share because we were just out doing other things. Putting the exercise with our eating just gives us more family time.

My kids want me to be active in what they’re active in. So, when I began listening to them about their health class, that opened doors to listen to more, about everything.

We get a lot more family time, a lot more activity time, a lot more mom and dad and the kids on the same page. It makes a big difference in a family.

What are the most important things you’ve learned?

I think portion control is the first thing. I had to learn that I didn’t need seconds. I needed to learn what a healthy portion was, not just for me, but for my kids, also.

It’s also being able to afford healthy foods. You just have to go in and do some research, because the healthy foods are available at low cost, if you really search for those items.

And just continuing it daily, not letting it be a diet, but letting it be a lifestyle change. Because you can break a diet. But, if you make a lifestyle change, it is something you’re going to always do.


Header Image: 
A family prepares a healthy dinner of green salad, green beans, ground beef and mashed potatoes.


Oktibbeha County, Mississippi

Melissa smiles as she tells her HappyHealthy success story.

My granddaughter went to the Fun with Food Camp, and she just loved it. Every afternoon, she came home and told me, “Granny, we did this” and “Granny, we did that.” They did a whole lot of healthy stuff, like squash. They had all kinds of vegetables, all kinds of fruit; they went to the market. She would come home, and she would want me to cook some of the same stuff that she had learned to cook at the Fun with Food Camp. Some of the stuff I knew how to do, and some of the stuff—a lot of the stuff—I did not know how to do!

But it was so healthy, and she enjoyed it! Some of the stuff that she would not eat before she went, she started eating. And even for myself, some things I didn’t like, but I would taste it, and it would be good!

Zucchini was one of the vegetables I thought I didn’t like. But once I started cooking it, my granddaughter—she thinks she knows how to cook—said “Granny, do it like this.” And, really, she walked me through how to cook it. And it was good! I liked it. We washed it, we sliced it, and we put it in the oven and baked it. We put seasoning on top of it.

Family Meal Time

I think it’s very important to cook at home, and not to eat out all the time. We sit down, and we all sit at the table. We try to get there at a certain time, but some of us aren’t there all the time. We sit down together.

That’s when we do all our talking, when we are sitting and eating. Everybody’s got something to tell about what happened that day. It’s more like a fun time, a time when we get together and share and talk about things for the day.

And I like it, too, because we’re all together at that time. We’re spending time together, we’re sitting there, we’re eating, we’re laughing, sometimes we’re joking, but we’re having a good time while we’re eating.

Whenever we have a gathering, that is the first thing we do—we sit down and eat. That’s what we do. It’s important, because you’ve got everybody there together. Everybody’s eating, laughing, and having fun, and just enjoying each other. But eating all at the same time.

Our family’s favorite foods were all pretty unhealthy. But, since I’ve been working on nutrition, it has gotten much better. Because I was like that, too. We fried food most of the time. But now we don’t even have oil in our house to fry anything. We bake almost everything. We haven’t gotten to the baked fish yet, but we’re working on it! Everything else is baked.

Cooking at Home

Once you start, it’s not hard to cook at home. And you can get some foods, some fruits and vegetables, that don’t take a lot of cooking—just a little steaming, like broccoli. Just a little steaming, and you’re done. It’s not hard. Squash—just a little steaming, and you’re done. A little seasoning.

With chicken, I just bake it. I put a little seasoning on it and bake it. If I want to oven-fry it, I put a little flour on it and spray it with pan coating (non-stick cooking spray) and bake it like that, oven-frying it instead of deep-frying it in the oil.

It’s real easy and simple to cook at home, because you can go out and buy foods that aren’t hard to cook. Broccoli is really easy and really good. Broccoli, and squash, and cabbage, stuff that you can steam. All you have to do is just put it in a little water and let it steam and add a little seasoning to it. And that’s it. And it’s very important, because you’ve got your kids sitting right there. And you can tell them—as you’re eating and they’re eating—“I’m eating it. It’s good!” They’ll try it, and they’ll like it.

Encouraging Others to Eat Healthy

I try to encourage people to eat healthier all the time, every day, all day. When the kids come through the line at work, and we’ve got a vegetable out there, like broccoli, that they don’t recognize, I say “Try it—it’s good! I used to not like broccoli, but, since I’ve been eating it, I’ve found out it is so good.” And they’ll try it.

In my job at the school cafeteria, we use a whole lot of fruits and vegetables. The children have to pick up a fruit or vegetable before they can go on through the line. If you want both, you can get both. But now kids are picking it up more. And that’s going real well.

That makes me feel so good. That I have put something out there that they can go home and tell their parents about, that they want to try. And they tell their parents to buy this or buy that, and get their parents to bring it home for them and cook it.

And for my granddaughter, I want her to grow up—she’s small now—but I want that to stay in her, to eat healthy. I know sometimes she’s going to be with her friends, and they’re going to be eating chips and stuff. But then maybe she can tell her friends about eating healthy. Then, when she gets older, if she ever has a family and her kids, she can help them to eat healthier, and she will be healthier, also, as she grows older.


Header Image: 
A family prepares a healthy dinner of green salad, green beans, ground beef and mashed potatoes.


Simpson County, Mississippi

A woman smiles as she sits on a bench holding a large bag which contains squash, zuchinni, carrots, purple cabbage, egg plant, acorn squash, tomato, and greens.

When I was growing up, we were not the family that ate out all the time because we just, financially, economically, we couldn’t. Those were treats.

My mother’s a country girl, so we ate from the ground, from the land. All the time, she’d stay in the garden, picking fresh fruits, vegetables. And, of course, we ate those vegetables. However, now I’m learning that, even though we had the fresh fruits and fresh vegetables, the ways we prepared them were not so healthy. And breaking that cycle is still, to this day, a hard, uphill journey.

You know, a typical Sunday meal would be greens, but they wouldn’t just be blanched or boiled. They would have to have fat. And then, on top of that fat meat, there would be oil added to that fat, because the fat makes it taste better, of course.

Then there would be cornbread, of course, and perhaps, depending on the season, there would be fresh corn. You would think fresh corn is healthy for you, but then, when you add the butter and the flour for the thickening, it all starts to become unhealthy. It tastes great, but it’s not healthy.

In Ms. Layton’s class, you find that butterbeans are not necessarily just vegetables. They’re starches, as well. And, when you incorporate a Southern meal with your cornbread, your butterbeans, or your fresh corn, and you wonder why, at the end of that meal, you’re lethargic. You know, of course, all those carbs compiled, you have to take a nap! There’s nothing else you can do.

Some of the changes that I make are to make healthier choices. If I have the butterbeans and the corn, then I have either a smaller piece of cornbread or no cornbread at all. You find that, growing up, that’s just a staple. It’s a part of your meal, your Sunday meal, your evening meals, cornbread with everything. So it’s hard to break because you feel like you can’t eat those vegetables without a piece of cornbread. But it’s doable, and the vegetables are actually good, even without the cornbread!

So, for me, it just about switching out. If you have this, then you don’t have the other, or you have a smaller amount of the other.

Some of the things that Ms. Layton taught in her class are things that we grew up, in elementary school health, learning. However, some of us hadn’t been in health class in eons, and these are things we don’t hear on a daily basis. So how can you incorporate things that you don’t know?

Maybe you know them, but they need to be reiterated.

There was some good stuff incorporated into some of the sessions that we had.

Losing weight helps you to feel better. Having more energy helps you to lose weight and feel better. So it’s like, it’s a full-circle thing—it just all-around helps.

It’s a huge effort to make the decision to do that, but, once you do and once you give it a little time, you notice it. You think, “Hmm, I didn’t need seconds,” or, “I am satisfied.” You don't feel as heavy when you don’t eat all those carbs and all those fats; you don’t feel as lethargic. So, once you start to recognize those effects, then you want more of that.

What would you say to encourage others to eat healthier?

Let’s face it, sometimes our Southern foods aren't the best for us, and we all need to make a change.

You should eat healthy because you matter.

Ultimately, you’ll feel better, and you’ll look better, as well.

Eating healthy sustains life, period.