What it Takes to Feed Our Community

United Way is working to ensure that everyone has access to healthy, affordable food.

Imagine if households connected to the electrical grid received varying amounts of power based on their income level or neighborhood. What if families in under-resourced or rural areas couldn’t access enough power to keep their lights on every day? 

In most communities, we take for granted that our power grid will provide everyone the electricity they need. Our nation’s food system is a different story. Healthy, affordable food is abundant in some neighborhoods and hard to access in others. 

United Way of Southeast Mississippi and our community partners are working to reinforce and expand our food infrastructure so that it serves everyone equally, no matter where they live. 

What is Food Insecurity? 

The term “food insecure” refers to individuals who don’t get enough healthy food on a regular basis. 

For thousands of people in Southeast Mississippi, food insecurity means:

  • Not knowing where the next meal is coming from
  • Skipping meals or reducing portions
  • Missing out on more expensive fresh produce and other healthy options
  • Shopping at a convenience store, because there are no nearby supermarkets
  • Choosing between paying rent, going to the doctor or buying food for their family

Food insecurity is a pervasive, structural problem that’s intertwined with poverty, wage stagnation, educational opportunity, health care access and systemic racism. 

According to Feeding America, a lack of healthy food can do significant harm to a child’s physical and mental health, academic achievement, and future economic prosperity. Food-insecure children may experience delayed development, an increased risk of chronic illness, and behavioral problems like hyperactivity and anxiety.

Who is Food Insecure?

According to the Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi:

  • Per USDA – 34 million Americans (9 million children) are food insecure
  • In 2021 – 53 million Americans turned to food banks and community programs for help
  • Rural communities have great challenges with food insecurity
  • 20% of Black Americans live in a household with food insecurity
  • 1 in 5 seniors (>65) are food insecure

These individuals live in nearly every neighborhood and community, including our own.

Infographic highlighting hunger statistics for Mississippi

What is United Way of Southeast Mississippi doing to tackle food insecurity?

With our resources, partnerships, and ability to convene people from across the community, United Way of Southeast Mississippi is uniquely equipped to solve the complex challenge of food insecurity.

From mobile food pantries to soup kitchens serving the only hot meals some local residents ever get, we find creative, locally-based solutions to help communities narrow the food gap. With our community partners, we're creating opportunities for families to eat fresher, healthier foods on a budget.

Our impact-driven solutions include:

  • Hot meals delivered every weekday to senior citizens and shut-ins
  • Soup kitchen serving fresh meals to low income and homeless residents
  • Mobile food pantries in underserved communities
  • Food pantry providing emergency and supplemental food to over 1,200 households each month
  • Comprehensive information on local food resources shared through 211

Through these programs and many more, United Way is already seeing significant progress. In 2022, more than 7,516 individuals or households were enrolled in feeding programs through our partners Christian Services, Edwards Street Food Pantry and Hope Community Collective.

Local communities play a vital role in helping people from under-invested neighborhoods access healthy and nutritious food. Together, using local solutions funded by local people, we can narrow the food gap in our community. 

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