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.