Food insecurity continues in our state

Published 7:00 am Friday, May 11, 2018

Many of us here in Pearl River County take our proximity to grocery stores and food pantries for granted.

That’s because across Mississippi, a trend of food insecurity has been ongoing for the past eight years. In fact, of all 50 states, Mississippi is ranked as being the most food insecure during that time.

Food insecurity pertains to a particular state population’s ability to feed itself. To determine if a state is food insecure or not, a network of food banks nationwide, called Feeding America, reviews information provided to the Census, unemployment percentages, the median income, poverty rates and the number of homeowners. According to that data, Mississippi had an average food insecurity rate of 20.1 percent in 2016. While that rate is down from the previous year’s rate of 21.5 percent and 2013’s record of 22.7 percent, it still puts Mississippi at the top. The nation’s average food insecurity rate for 2016 was 12.9 percent.

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Within Pearl River County, the rate was 15.1 percent, or more than 8,000 people.

Other states listed as food insecure in the study were Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas and Tennessee. There appears to be a trend. Within the Deep South, healthy and adequate food is a bit harder for our citizens to come by.

Even though the problem is not as severe as poverty and food insecurity rates in third world countries, Mississippi is part of one of the richest nations in the world. And despite the efforts of our local food banks, there are still children and adults who are unable to find enough healthy food to sustain them. This ongoing trend needs to end. A solution for the problem in the short-term may entail a review of the nation’s food assistance regulations to allow more families to get the food they need. But ultimately a permanent solution needs to be found, one that will help those dealing with poverty find employment that provides a living wage.