Hunger Issue in Mississippi

By: Mike McDaniel
By: Mike McDaniel

To be a such major concern in Mississippi, Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce, Cindy Hyde-Smith, says it's not something widely discussed.

"People aren't going to tell you, I didn't have enough to eat last night before I went to bed," said Hyde-Smith.

According to Feeding America, Mississippi tops the list when it comes to food insecurity, with just more than 22 percent of the population and stretches across all demographics.

"Those faces of hunger are as broad as the faces of America," said Mississippi Food Network board chairperson Mary Hill.

Hill says it's a problem that's been happening for years.

"So many times we get caught up on just us and we don't see the surroundings and the things that others are facing," said Hill.

Relief may now be on the way, thanks to a new partnership between Tyson Foods and the National Urban League. It's a grassroots, community-based hunger awareness and relief pilot program designed to provide resources to those impacted the most.

"We want to create a dialog about hunger here in Mississippi," said Tyson CEO and president Donnie Smith.

Smith says the plan is to bring the problem to the table. Through community events and nutrition fairs, Smith says it's about educating folks on how to go about getting and serving healthy meals.

"It's hard to fight an enemy that you can't see and so what we want to do is bring the enemy out into the light.," said Smith.

Urban League president and CEO Marc Morial says many of those who go hungry in Mississippi are children, which makes the state the perfect place to start a nationwide change.

"We have to think about this in the context of families. In the context of how, by trying to help people become more aware, have greater access to food security," said Morial.

To kick off the statewide effort, Tyson Foods is giving more than 30,000 pounds of chicken to food banks across the state. It's just a starting point which Smith hopes will lead to the finish line.

"We will make a difference for Mississippians and we hope this is the beginning of a long, long partnership," said Smith.

Even though Mississippi is the most obese state in the nation, Hyde-Smith says a major link is because folks don't have access to healthy foods, which is another component to program.


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