Friday, December 20, 2019
Several local nonprofits will unite this holiday season to provide 500 free meals to young people in Jackson as part of ongoing efforts to fight food insecurity in the city and state, which currently ranks first nationwide in food insecurity.
On Dec. 23, the Jackson Meals Matter program team up with Chefs for the Culture and the Love JXN: Save Ourselves campaign to cook and distribute hot meals at the Grove Park Community Center in northwest Jackson. The event, titled "Holiday Meals for Jackson's Kids," will begin at 11 a.m. and end at 2 p.m.
As the poorest state in America, food insecurity is especially profound in Mississippi. Approximately 600,840 Mississippians, or one in four people, do not have access to enough food. One-quarter of children in the state and more than half of Mississippi's elderly population go to sleep hungry.
In Hinds County alone, 61,720 people go without enough food. As the Mississippi Food Network points out, the food-insecure population of Hinds County is larger than the hungry population in all of North Dakota.
Food insecurity is linked to numerous adverse health effects. For children, lack of access to nutrient-rich foods can lead to developmental problems and poor educational outcomes. Because unhealthy foods tend to be cheaper than nutrient-rich ones, families who are struggling to make ends meet are more likely to consume foods that harm their physical health. And since families must often decide between placing food on the table or meeting their other basic needs, food insecurity has also been linked to housing and transportation insecurity and lack of access to medical care.
Summers and holiday vacations are particularly difficult times for families struggling with food insecurity, as school breakfasts and lunches are the only times that a child may eat during the day. Mississippi ranks 47th in the country for child participation in school summer lunch programs, the Food Research and Action Center reports. Only 8% of Mississippi kids ages 18 and younger are currently enrolled in summer lunch programs.
The average cost of a meal in Mississippi is $2.93, the nonprofit Feeding America found. The agency estimates that an additional $286,997,000 in funds is required to overhaul food insecurity in Mississippi.
In 2018, the City of Jackson received a $120,000 grant from the National League of Cities to combat hunger. The City used the money to launch the Jackson Meals Matter program.
Children can pick up meals at the Grove Park Community Center on 4126 Parkway Ave. from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information or to volunteer, reach out to Tyler Jackson at email@example.com or 601-201-7324.
Follow City Reporter Seyma Bayram on Twitter @SeymaBayram0. Send tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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