Securing Food Access in the Mid South
October 10th, 2017
Innovation and investments in food access programs create a stronger, healthier Mid South. The need for both is stark: with nearly 3 million residents (17.6%) experiencing inconsistent or undependable access to food, the Mid South region is one of the most food insecure areas in the entire United States.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food insecurity as a lack of access at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life. According to Mapping the Meal Gap, of the 17 counties where more than 30 percent of the population experiences food insecurity, 13 are in the Mid South. See Map. Eleven (11) of those counties are in Mississippi, concentrated in the persistently impoverished Mississippi Delta. Expanding food access in underserved communities can be achieved by a mix of innovative community development and investment.
Investing in Communities
Expanding access to fresh food is vital to ensuring a healthy Mid South. As grocery stores in small towns and low-income urban neighborhoods vanish, residents and communities are left without options. Through the Mid South Healthy Food Initiative, Hope (Hope Enterprise Corporation and Hope Credit Union) has financed and leveraged more than $45 million in financing for approximately 180,000 square feet of grocery store space, significantly expanding healthy food to underserved communities across the Mid South. Through this program, community staples like Circle Food Store in New Orleans, Louisiana, and Jackson Cash & Carry in Jackson, Mississippi, help ensure residents have ready access to affordable, nutritious food.
Meeting the needs of residents who live in underserved communities in the Mid South requires innovative solutions that have a meaningful impact. One such solution is the Up in Farms Food Hub, a Mississippi-based enterprise that serves as a processing and distribution center for food produced by small- and medium-sized Mississippi farms. This vital role provides farmers a guaranteed market for their produce and provides restaurants, grocery stores, schools, and communities the opportunity to benefit from greater access to a variety of fresh, healthy foods.
Expanding food access in the Mid South has the potential to improve the security and health of 3 million residents. Innovative projects, like the Mid South Healthy Food Initiative and Up in Farms Food Hub, are essential first strides to expanding food security in the region, but deeper, sustained investments in healthy food access and availability are necessary to affect the change Mid South residents deserve.