The Oxford Eagle
Today, we hear a lot of talk about organic food, and many seem more worried about what they are consuming. Eating healthy isn’t always easy, but the owner of a local organic food store and restaurant said committing to a healthy diet can be one of the smartest decisions you make. Not only can eating well make you look and feel better, but it can also save you money on future health costs.
Living Foods Organic Market and Cafe, located at 809 College Hill Rd. in Oxford, is owned by Tulsa native Melody Sharp, a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, who opened the organic eatery to bring a healthier alternative to Oxford.
“A lot of people in the South are still not as educated on how food affects your body and why eating well is important,” Sharp said. “That is growing and changing, but it is still something we try to find the best solution for on a regular basis.”
Sharp ventured to Oxford around seven years ago with her husband after leaving Hattiesburg to open Living Foods. “When I finished school, I was married and two months pregnant,” Sharp said with a smile, “so taking care of my child was my first job out of college.”
Sharp said she hasn’t always eaten healthfully. “I used to be the person at Walmart always looking for the best deal,” she said.
Bur Sharp said she realized spending more money on healthier foods pays off. Looking for the best food deal at grocery stories may save money now, but years later, it may cause health issues, she said.
“I learned a lot about food when my son was born six years ago,” she said. “He had a milk and protein allergy, so as a breastfeeding mom, I became an avid label reader.
“The more I investigated our food, the more I was shocked at some of the ingredients that were allowed in our ‘food,’” Sharp said. “As I learned more, it changed the way our family ate at home and the choices I made at the grocery store.”
With Living Foods, Sharp decided to cut out wheat and gluten in all of the food products and not use mass produced meat.
“The only item that we sell that isn’t gluten free is a local bread that our sandwiches are served on that the lady grinds all of the flours herself,” she said. “Everything that we make in-house, however, we make without the use of wheat.
“A lot of places sell you the same food that’s just presented in different ways, but it all comes from the same place. Our food is mindfully prepared. We use no processed sugar in anything we make, and our sauces to spices are made and mixed in house.”
Sharp’s second son developed a gluten intolerance, so she decided to include more healthful choices, which included eliminating gluten and most grains from her family diet. She treats her organic market and restaurant like she treats her kitchen at home – no gluten or wheat and locally grown organic produce from a local farm.
“What has happened as a result, is that we noticed that we have all felt so much better,” she said. “When my family used to go out to eat, I used to think to myself, ‘If I could create a place that we could all feel good about eating, what would it look like?’ I prayed about it, and I could hear God saying ‘Go for it. I’ve got you. Step out.’ So we did. And here we are today.”
Living Foods has many options on the menu, such as the organic burger, green smoothie, and the detox juice, but the most popular items are the smoothie bowls, which are called acai bowls, and other bowls on the menu, such as the Mexican quinoa bowl.
“My favorite thing on the menu is the avocado toast with local fried egg,” she said. “I eat it almost every morning I am here.”
Allie Jaggers, a University of Mississippi sophomore studying nutrition, said Living Foods is her favorite place to eat in Oxford.
“When I came to Ole Miss, I was desperately searching for a healthy place to eat,” she said. “When I discovered Living Foods, it changed the way I eat weekly.
“My favorite item on the menu is the acai bowls. I feel like those are really popular. The acai bowls also fill you up, and you feel good after eating them, not extremely full and regretful. I also enjoy going in and buying fresh produce for the week. Their grass-fed burgers are to die for.”
With many healthy options, Living Foods attracts different ages, races, backgrounds, and education levels.
“It really helps my belief that healthy eating is not a ‘trend,’” Sharp said, “and if it were, there would be one type of person we see repeatedly. It’s really a great mix of different types of people, and we get to hear so many stories from so many different backgrounds. It really is a blessing.”