Food insecurity is often associated with severe health problems, particularly obesity. According to the Centers for Disease control, the rate of obesity in Mississippi in 2009 was the worst of any state, 34.4%, compared to the national average of 26.7%.
|Cassandra Guess with OrganWise Guy|
In 2007, with a grant from Uncle Ben’s, and in 2008, with a grant from the Lincy Foundation, the Mississippi Food Network began feeding children at six Mississippi Boys and Girls Clubs. Once the initial grants expired, Cassandra couldn’t bear to tell the kids that they would no longer receive food, so she continued the programs by providing snacks through the USDA CACFP (Child and Adult Care Food Program), which reimburses $0.74 for each nutritious snack served. Currently, the Mississippi Food Network is supplying after-school snacks to 12 sites serving over 800 children.
Many programs would like to feed children a full meal after school or in the summer, but this is much harder, partly because many sites for children don’t have kitchen facilities. They can serve pre-packaged food, transport food to their site from a separate kitchen, or transport the kids to a location that prepares meals. Here, too, the Mississippi Food Network helps by providing food, helping to work out the logistics, and handling the details of CACFP.
When kids live in extreme poverty, they often have little access to nutritious food outside of school breakfast and school lunch programs. To help feed them on weekends, many food banks and other organizations provide needy children with child-friendly food to take home on the weekends. The Feeding America program is called the “BackPack Program.”
A few years ago Robrelle started this program for kids who live in an extremely low-income neighborhood in Jackson. She said she got tired of other "Christians" complaining about the kids hanging around in this neighborhood where she grew up, but not helping because they were afraid to go there. So she started with a blanket on the lawn in a park, where she taught Bible lessons, played games, did craft projects, and gave food to kids who came. The program has now grown (with nearly no funding) to serving about 250 kids after school and on Monday evenings in its own building, which also houses a day care center for preschoolers.