Bridging the Great Health Gap: Food Insecurity
JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) – Imagine not having constant access to food for every person in your household. It is a sad reality for many Mississippians.
Longtime supervisor James Young admits Holmes County is hungry for more groceries and better access to healthy food options.
“Seven miles from here, near the town of Goodman, there is no grocery store. Pickens, who is seven miles from Goodman, has no grocery store, ”Young said.
Lack of access creates food insecurity for residents and a food desert in the rural county. A food desert is defined as an area that has limited access to nutritious and affordable food.
Food insecurity is defined as the lack of constant access to enough food for an active and healthy life.
Elderly Shirley Greer has lived in Holmes County since the 1960s. She believes state and federal leaders are not paying enough attention to ongoing food issues.
“These are the entities that bring us supplies and things, and if they are not concerned, we are in need,” she said.
Holmes County has a population of just over 16,000 – the 55th largest county in Mississippi. Yet 34% of the population was food insecure in 2017. This is more than triple the national average of 10.5% at the time.
Holmes County also had the second highest percentage of its food insecure population in the country.
“Food is a necessity, especially healthy eating which plays a major role. We have obesity, which leads to diabetes, to high blood pressure, ”Young said.
Health experts say those percentages are likely much higher now because of the pandemic.
Residents say their problems have been exasperated in the Delta due to transportation problems, lack of money, jobs and growing unemployment.
“In rural areas, we are like the inhabitants of a big city, we are human and we need food,” said a resident of Issaquena County.
In this county, their geographic location has left a great void when it comes to food options.
“It’s difficult for family members to get food,” said one resident.
While food insecurity and food deserts cannot be solved with just one approach, there are those on the front lines of the fight, including the Mississippi Food Network.
“As you can see with several articles here, from sweet peas to vegetables to fruit,” said COO Quincy Robinson.
With the help of generous donors, the organization can partner with pantries, soup kitchens and organizations to provide 1.5 million pounds of food to feed 150,000 people across the state each month. . They also deliver.
I was there as an 18-wheeled vehicle loaded with food made its monthly stop at a local pantry in the small town of Mayersville, Issaquena County. It is a place of welcome for the mayor and many inhabitants.
“It’s a big help. We all need it, you know, and we have to pay some things less, ”said resident Ruthie Bunton.
“It is very important to give everyone a well balanced meal when they need it,” said Robinson.
Although they have had some success, there are limits to what they can do and have needs.
“These areas of the Delta, when we send them that product and when these consumables like milk and eggs, they have to have a place to store them. Right now, many agencies in the region are grappling with this, ”said Robinson.
Durant Missionary Baptist Church in Holmes County also partners with the Mississippi Food Network to provide food to hundreds of needy families and the elderly.
“We opened it because there was a dire need for fruits and vegetables and some meats that we couldn’t get past our main grocery store a few years ago,” said Pearlie Brown.
Pearlie Brown helps run the pantry. It has seen a 30% increase since the start of the pandemic last year.
“The need is greater, and I have people calling me who I normally would never have been in contact with,” she said.
“If the people at the higher levels don’t start investing in the smaller counties, the only people who are going to stay are those who are too poor to move,” Young said.
Meanwhile, the work to bridge the gap continues.
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