Some communities in Mississippi struggle with food deserts

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SHUQUALAK, Miss. (WCBI) – According to Feeding America, 1 in 5 Mississippians is struggling with hunger.

For some, grocery stores are far away, and farmer’s markets are nonexistent. But there are things communities can do to help.

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Food deserts are defined as an area where healthy food isn’t easily accessible. In Mississippi, Dr. Kenya Cistrunk said nearly every county has pockets of desert areas.

“So when you think about Mississippi, and how rural our state is then you obviously we have to acknowledge that there are some areas that will not have access to supermarkets. How do we make sure that people who are in those areas have access to healthy food options,” said Cistrunk?

Some retailers are changing their business models – expanding into rural areas and offering some grocery options.

“Just to have something right here to grab bread, eggs, household, it means the world we are grateful to have the Dollar General here,” said Shirley Moore Blakley.

But even though these stores have some benefits, they also pose some challenges.

“When you think about someone who’s hungry and trying to get food, if I can get to Dollar General and purchase that frozen meal or the canned food at a price that works with my budget, then at least it gets me something. Where we want to get people to understand that those might not be the healthiest options and how do we help them learn those skills and techniques that they may not know, to grow their own vegetables and fruit,” said Cistrunk.

Cistrunk said it will take a broader approach to help those facing food insecurity.

“We’re talking about from a community level, not just individuals but from a community, level addressing food insecurity, through the community gardens, through the community-supported agricultural a model. Where people can purchase, you know food bags, if they have the funds or use their EBT benefits to go to the farmers market to be able to purchase the foods that they need,” said Cistrunk.

573,610 Mississippians experienced food insecurity in 2017 according to feeding America. While that number is high, it down nearly 100,000 from 2015.

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