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Aldermen advised on healthy food grants

Healthy Grants: Hillary Levens, a representative with Partners for Healthy Mississippi and Gulf Coast Health Educators, addressed the Poplarville Board of Aldermen Tuesday about healthy food financing available to small communities in rural Mississippi underserved by grocery stores.  Photo by Cassandra Favre

Healthy Grants: Hillary Levens, a representative with Partners for Healthy Mississippi and Gulf Coast Health Educators, addressed the Poplarville Board of Aldermen Tuesday about healthy food financing available to small communities in rural Mississippi underserved by grocery stores.
Photo by Cassandra Favre


Tuesday, the Poplarville Board of Aldermen heard from a representative of Partners for Healthy Mississippi and Gulf Coast Health Educators about fresh food grant opportunities available to small grocery owners and farmers.
Hillary Levens is a voices campaign grassroots advocate and counseled the board about healthy food financing available for rural communities.
About 70 percent of Mississippians live almost 30 miles from the nearest grocery store, Levens said. These areas have been designated as food deserts, meaning some residents do not have proper access to healthy food options.
“The state spends more than one billion dollars in obesity related healthcare costs a year,” Levens said. “In this area, there are areas with no access to a food store for miles.”
Board member Shirley Wiltshire said there are about 22 miles between Poplarville and the Stone County line.
The Food Trust, based in Pennsylvania, provides grants and loans to store owners, Levens said. These funds contribute to a number of store improvements including upgrades, expansions, renovations, access to fresh produce and equipment to maintain the shelf life of fruits and vegetables.
“It all goes back to how common a problem obesity is,” Levens said. “It’s a start and provides a healthier option to processed foods.”
There are benefits to this program including job creation, economic development and access to healthier foods, Levens said. Healthier food financing is a branch of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Eat Healthy campaign.
Mayor Brad Necaise said there is a lot of potential for this opportunity because there are a number of gardeners in the area.

In other action board members approved:
• Authorization for Poplarville Fire Chief Bobby Strahan to apply for a $21,000 grant for turn out gear.
• The county brush truck to be held at the Poplarville Fire Department to use in response to brush fires, rather than the ladder truck.
The Board of Aldermen will meet again on Tuesday, Dec. 2 at 5 p.m. in the board chambers at city hall.