by Cathy Pope, President & CEO of Feeding the Gulf Coast
Teachers tell us all the time, “You cannot teach a hungry child. The physical needs must be met before a child can learn.” We hear from seniors: “I have to choose between healthy food and paying my light bill.” A mother of two says, “I have a good job and still can’t seem to have enough food in my house to feed my kids.”
These are the stories we hear every day in Mississippi and across our service area. People are hungry and need help.
One in six people in Mississippi, including one in four children, struggles with hunger. This is higher than the national average of one in seven people and one in five children. These people are seniors living on fixed incomes, children who don’t have healthy food to eat on the weekends or during the summer, and working families struggling to make ends meet.
Feeding the Gulf Coast, formerly Bay Area Food Bank, serves a 24-county area spanning south Alabama, south Mississippi and the panhandle of Florida, and also is a member of Feeding America. We have been actively working to fight hunger in south Mississippi since 1990, and one year ago we moved from a temporary office into permanent space in Gulfport. We are very excited to see our capacity grow to end hunger in coastal Mississippi.
Last year in Mississippi, with our more than 60 partner agencies, we distributed over 2.4 million meals to an estimated 37,000 households, served nearly 3,000 children through our Nutrition Programs, and assisted over 1,000 households with submitting SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program) applications through our SNAP Outreach Program. However, more work needs to be done to solve hunger in coastal Mississippi, and you can help.
There are many ways you can join our local fight against hunger. First, please help us spread the message of the crisis of local hunger in our community. Feeding the Gulf Coast can stretch $10 to provide 50 meals to our neighbors, so any donation you can offer to support our mission will effectively decrease hunger in our community.
Additionally, on Sept. 21, we are hosting Mississippi Chef Challenge in Biloxi, our first fundraiser in Mississippi. The goal is raise funds in support of our Mississippi programs, as well as raise awareness of local hunger. Chef Challenge guests will enjoy tastings of dishes from local chefs, live entertainment by the band Roman Street, a vast silent auction, as well as complimentary beer and wine.
Guests will also vote on their favorite dishes of the evening, and the overall winner will qualify for the World Food Championships in Orange Beach, Alabama! Tickets are $60 in advance or at the door.
We hope you will join us in the local fight against hunger any way you can! For more information about how you can help solve hunger in our community, please visit feedingthegulfcoast.org.
Feeding the Gulf Coast, formerly Bay Area Food Bank, serves a 24-county area spanning south Alabama, south Mississippi and the Panhandle of Florida. In 2016, the food bank distributed over 22 million pounds of food to nearly 400 church pantries, soup kitchens and other nonprofit organizations throughout its service area. For more information, visit feedingthegulfcoast.org.