JACKSON, Mississippi – Food security—the condition in which all people at all times have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food—is essential to building healthy, equitable, and resilient communities for all. Yet in 2017, one in five (573,610) Mississippians and one in four (163,530) children statewide struggled with hunger, including active-duty service members and their families, veterans, people with disabilities, students, and seniors, with dire consequences for their health, cognitive development, academic and work performance, and stability.
In May, 27 civil society, private sector, and government organizations urged the U.S. congressional delegation from Mississippi to help end the state’s food insecurity crisis by adopting the following policy recommendations:
1. Invest in Healthy Futures through Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR): This year, hundreds of thousands of children and families in MS experiencing food insecurity and hunger depend on Congress to enact strong CNR legislation. This means strengthening program participation and access, safeguarding community eligibility in federal school meal programs, simplifying program administration and operation requirements, and fostering healthy school environments by preserving the evidence-based child nutrition standards mandated in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 of 2010 and expanding farm-to-school programs.
2. Protect and Strengthen the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): SNAP is our most vital and cost-effective anti-hunger lifeline. In December 2018, SNAP helped 468,186 low-income Mississippians keep food on the table through a modest nutrition benefit of about $1.27 in food assistance per meal.3 Strengthen SNAP by improving benefit adequacy,4 lifting restrictions on participation for higher education students, and expanding fruit and vegetable incentive programs. Oppose proposals that would restrict SNAP eligibility, reduce benefit levels or state flexibility (e.g., restricting ABAWD waivers), or increase barriers to participation and administrative burden (e.g., expanding work requirements).
3. End College and University Hunger: Support policies that will help close the hunger gap for students enrolled at institutions of higher education, including the Campus Hunger Reduction Act (H.R. 1717), which would enable higher education institutions to qualify for Community Food Project grants; and the Closing the Meal Gap Act of 2019 (H.R. 1368), which would amend the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 to eliminate SNAP eligibility restrictions for higher education students.
4. Foster Healthy Communities: Support policies that promote equitable access to affordable, nutritious, and sustainable food options at the community level, such as the Healthy Food Financing Initiative and tax incentives.
The policy recommendations were signed by the following anti-poverty, civil rights, community development, education, faith-based, food and agriculture, health care, and public health organizations:
· American Heart Association
· City of Jackson, Mississippi, Office of CHAMPS: Cities Combating Hunger, Jackson Meals Matter
· Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Mississippi
· Disability Rights Mississippi
· Delta Design Build Workshop
· E. E. Rogers SDA School
· Feeding Hernando/DeSoto County
· Fertile Ground Farms
· Innovative Health Strategies LLC
· MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger
· McComb Children’s Clinic
· Metro Jackson National Congress of Black Women
· Mississippi Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
· Mississippi Center for Justice
· Mississippi Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
· Mississippi Food Policy Council
· Mississippi Food Network
· Mississippi Human Services Coalition
· Mississippi Low-Income Child Care Initiative
· Mississippi Public Health Association
· Mississippi Retail and Grocers Association
· Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi
· Sunshine Children's Clinic
· The Mississippi Farm to School Network
· Tupelo/Lee County Hunger Coalition
· Women of Wisdom of Central Rankin County
· YMCA of Metropolitan Jackson
The Mississippi Center for Justice and The Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi delivered the group’s policy recommendations during visits with the Washington, DC offices of U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), U.S. Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), U.S. Congressman Michael Guest (R-MS-3), U.S. Congressman Trent Kelly (R-MS-1), U.S. Congressman Steven Palazzo (R-MS-4), and U.S. Congressman Bennie Thompson (D-MS-2). Read the full message here.