TEDxManhattan Heroes: Sunny Young

As TEDxManhattan 2014 approaches, we've asked this year's speakers to introduce themselves by answering a few questions. Today we feature Sunny Young, director of EduFood Consulting and the winner of the TEDxManhattan Challenge!

What’s the topic you’ll be speaking about?

I will be talking about the effects a program like Good Food for Oxford Schools can have on an entire community. I will explain how our project addresses change in the cafeteria, classroom, and community - illustrated with our various methods and success stories. Our project combines farm-to-school with general school food improvements such as cooking from scratch and eliminating overly processed foods. In addition, we connect students to their food through school gardens, cooking classes, and conversations about food. Our overarching goal is to become a model other school districts in Mississippi can adapt and make their own, creating widespread change in a state where families can use as much help as they can get to help combat obesity and diet-related disease. We are an all-inclusive project, and keep all members of the community involved as we progress. I will talk about our annual Gospel Choir Showcase and how we reach out to our community to ensure everyone feels as though Good Food for Oxford Schools is their project.

It is clear that now is the time for widespread change - the way we eat is literally killing us and this can be seen especially clearly in Mississippi.

Why is this important?

It is clear that now is the time for widespread change - the way we eat is literally killing us and this can be seen especially clearly in Mississippi. Our students are big, and are suffering because of it. In our school district, we have students as young as five with type-II diabetes (a disease once called Adult Onset Diabetes, because it only afflicted those in adulthood), and we are definitely one of the better-off towns in Mississippi. Many of our children are overweight, undernourished, and addicted to sugar, fat, and salt. In addition, our communities are suffering from extreme poverty, lack of access to good food, and shortage of jobs. Programs like Good Food for Oxford Schools aim to help alleviate these ailments one step at a time.

Are there other projects you’re also passionate about right now – either yours or someone else’s?

I have always been a huge fan of Slow Food. Our definition of "Good Food" in Oxford comes from SF - good, clean, and fair. I believe Slow Food's various projects and inherent values could develop into pragmatic resources for communities - making a space for enjoyment of food in addition to change in health of the body and the environment. When working with students in Oxford, we use Slow Food resources like their awesome School Garden manual and ideas for gathering around the table together.

In addition - I love watching FoodCorps grow, expand, and start to reach a widespread audience. I feel confident in their method and think they have major potential to help schools run sustainable programs.

I'm also a huge fan of Edible School Yard and their fabulous website full of great curriculum and resources.

There are many others! I'm so pleased to be a part of this fast growing movement to make food a centerpiece in living a fulfilling, productive life.

Which other 2014 TEDxManhattan speakers are you excited about hearing? Which talks from previous years did you particularly enjoy?

Oh so many... I have attended the past two TedXManhattan events, and always leave with renewed confidence and inspiration for what I do.

Some of my past favorites have included: Curt Ellis from FoodCorps, Urvashi Rangan on food labeling, Steve Ritz, whose passion is contagious, last year's Annemarie Colbin (who I just want to follow around for a year...), Anna Lappe opened my eyes to some new topics on marketing, Tama Matsuoka Wong was so cool - talking about eating weeds (and then we got to eat weeds for lunch...!), and of course Chef Ann :) who I used to work for in Colorado. I also loved hearing from the Challenge winner last year - Cheryl Kollin who spoke of her Farm to Freezer project in DC.

Mitchell Davis, who spoke on the importance of taste has probably had the biggest influence on me, personally. His message is logical, clear, and especially relevant when it comes to school food. If the new meals we are creating are not delicious, our project is not going to work. I wish I could make every school food service director watch this talk.

This year I am especially looking forward to hearing from Dr. Regina Bernard-Carreno - as race and class are a huge consideration we take with GFOS, Saru Jayaraman - who I find an incredibly talented and engaging speaker, and Nikki Silvestri - who I heard speak at Terra Madre and I can't wait to hear more. It is a huge honor to take the same stage as these folks and all the other fabulous speakers!

Where can more information about your project or issue be found?


TEDxManhattan, “Changing the Way We Eat,” will take place March 1, 2014 at the TimesCenter in New York City.  Interested in joining the day? You can host or attend a viewing party in your community. You can also watch the talks live on March 1 at new.livestream.com/tedx/manhattan2014. For more information, please visit http://www.tedxmanhattan.org/.