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2016 Healthy School Hero: Jeff Gibson

English Teacher and Coach, Wingfield High School Academy of Agriculture and Mechanical Science

Despite being the son, grandson and great grandson of farmers, Jeff chose to become a teacher – and the kids at Wingfield High are fortunate he did. He combines his farming heritage with teaching by leading Project Green Falcon at the school, a community-based effort between the local 4H Club, teachers and students to broaden community access to fresh, healthy foods. The primary objectives of the project are to encourage all community members to eat more naturally grown “green” foods at every meal, join the “Go Green Initiative” to recycle/compost and eat something green on every Tuesday.

Jeff also took over a distressed football program at Wingfield High in 2012.The booster club had less than $100 in its bank account, and some players faced issues academically and with the law. While looking for funding to develop the program, Jeff met Dr. Cindy Ayers-Elliot. Through a partnership with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Mississippi State University and Alcorn State University, Dr. Ayers-Elliot started Foot Print Farms. Jeff and Dr. Ayers-Elliot negotiated a lease for two acres of land for the team to grow food and generate revenue for the team.

Through the program they have been able to purchase athletic equipment, awards, lettermen jackets and daily after-practice meals and gardening supplies, as well as make food donations to local shelters. After a year of gardening at Foot Print Farms, the team moved to Buddy Butts Park in Jackson. Jeff’s goal is to broaden the community’s understanding of how eating quality food affects the health of individuals and the community. For him, the most rewarding point is when students start to value themselves in a way they did not prior to participating in the program.