Portion of Mississippi children struggling with hunger

WINSTON AND CHOCTAW COUNTIES, Miss. (WCBI) – One in four kids in Mississippi struggle with hunger, according to Feeding America.

In Choctaw County, many students qualify for feeding programs.

“We are probably at free and reduced our percentage is probably around 70%,” said child nutrition director Judy Black.

And they’re not alone. In Winston County, Feeding America reports over a thousand kids experienced food insecurity in 2017.

For some of those kids, school is the main source for healthy food.

“It means a lot to them because we have some kids that this is the only meal they get, and it’s a hot meal. And they have choices for breakfast, and for lunch. And also we have this thing where we share a table what that is like, if a child, don’t want breakfast they set it down and then the next child is able to get it,” said cafeteria manager Jeanette Williams.

Schools are recognizing that there is need, and they are stepping up to the plate.

“We’ve recently added Community Eligibility program at Weir, that means every child at that school gets to eat for free, regardless of income or anything they get to eat for free,” said Black.

Some schools do summer feeding programs, while others have year-round options.

“We have backpacks for kids, and what it is, it provides the kid’s food to take home over the weekend, which they have to bring the backpacks Monday back that Monday so they could be filled again so that no child goes hungry,” said Williams.

Quality is also important. Black said they look at nutrition and give students options.

“We don’t know what a child goes home to, you know, we, we don’t know if their parents are home with a healthy meal, they might be going home to a bag of chips, you know you don’t know what a child’s getting at home,” said Black.

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